Are you afraid of flying? If yes, what are the circumstances are you worried will happen if you get on a plane, whether it'd be your own choice to conquer your fear or dragged in there kicking and screaming. A possible plane crash? A hijacking by terrorists? Or a plane disappearing and you might never see everyone or even land ever again? Well you'd be surprised how Liam Neeson's character in Non-Stop could relate to some of those fears albeit for more personal reasons.
Yes we have another thriller to involve Liam Neeson but it's not him on some sort of roaring rampage of revenge of some kind. Here's the thing, it's a mystery-thriller. And everybody loves a good mystery, right? Well you'd be happy to know it's not bad, in fact it's downright pretty good. Well, save for a few hiccups.
Now, the role of Bill Marks could have been written for anyone but it fits Neeson perfectly. As such, he carries the entire film from beginning to end and you'd be just as curious about the mysterious assailant as he is. He conveys the right amount of emotions to express such as confusion, distress, anger and whatnot. Yes, he threatens people and goes rough on them as you'd expect him to but it makes sense for him to do all that to random strangers as he's trying to save everyone but at the same time, he's not really that much of a nice guy to begin with anyway and the movie doesn't hide the fact that he's not in the best of shape even right at the start.
Julianne Moore has some good on screen chemistry with Neeson. At first, I thought her character's backstory was going to involve some sort of abusive husband or boyfriend backstory given the film established a scar on her chest but thankfully didn't went there as I don't think the would have been mature enough to explore that and it would have been an offensively throw away moment had it did that. Instead, it involves heart surgery and the fact that she died for 43 minutes before she woke up and mentions that she could die at any moment. Mind you, the events of the film would have given her a heart attack if that was the case but I digress.
But really, she's pretty good in this as well.
However, some of the other members of the cast were kind of limited in some respects. Some often did something contributing to the plot, yes, but not much in comparison to the main players including the perpetrator. For example, Lupita Nyong'o is in the film as one of the flight attendants but her role is limited to looking confused and scared or commenting a bit on the situation at hand when she knows what's going on.
But that's not to say everyone's role is limited. Some of the other cast members do have an active role in not only learning about who the guy is via news broadcast but also try to take him down, one of them being an NYPD officer. So at least they're suspects with memorable qualities.
The mystery itself is well done. After establishing who the lead character is, the mystery kicks in when he receives text messages on his phone that not only demand 150 million dollars from his bank account, but will threaten to kill somebody on the plane if he doesn't get the money and has 20 minutes to do so. The text messages pop out on screen throughout the film whenever he looks at his phone to see what the killer wants now.
Of course, we have red herrings and contribute to the guy's paranoia. Which again, makes sense. He is in obvious distress, he is trying to figure out who could be the hijacker after so many false leads that he even suspected a passenger who set next to him (three guesses as to who it is and probably figured who) because she wanted a seat specifically next to the window. It adds to the mood of the film, the sense of paranoia-it's very much the major theme of the entire film. You're continuously wondering who could the killer be; you're anticipating whatever actions the other passengers could make and expecting a shocking reveal until you realize, it's not. At least until near the end of the film when it reaches its third act.
Actually speaking of the mood, it's a rather slick but dark film. It has a bit of a gritty touch to it as well with the cinematography helping its case with its use of dull lights and dark lighting so I'd say Jaume Collet-Serra's direction on the entire film is well done; he doesn't go completely overboard and the use of a handheld camera is put to good use to further empathize the paranoia aspect of the film and it's well paced, nothing too slow or too fast. The film plays out as it is.
Now the next part, I'm going to have to includes spoilers so skip this part and come back to it later is my best suggestion. Thinking back to it, I can't help but wonder if this was some sort of commentary on the state of the world Post 9/11. The motivation with the perpetrators, yes, perpetrators are former US soldiers who were angered at the lack of security pre 9/11 and that wasn't enough, they were undoubted so paranoid, they picked Bill Marks; specific random dude, a US Air Marshall no less to be the fall guy and intended to blow up the plane, blowing up with it. It adds to the film's theme of paranoia. Whether you think this was a good call to include or not is up to you but I thought it did add something given what it was going for and at least it didn't seem like a cheap reveal.
Mind you, how they dealt with the bomb is a bit pushing it given the gritty mood but whatever floats your boat I guess. But you know what? I got to admit, it did get me. I was caught off guard.
All in all, it's a decent Mystery-Thriller, I enjoyed it. It was fun trying to know who the perpetrator is and has enough of a good cast (well, just the two leads) to carry it from beginning to end. If you're a mystery buff and like dark thrillers, this is for you. If not, this won't sway you in any capacity.