Remember Flightplan? The 2005 Jodie Foster flick had a nifty premise, sure– kind of a “Kidnapping on the Orient Express”, if you will. But it was so disastrously awful and ridiculously implausible that hopefully you either missed it or have permanently purged any memory of it.
Fast forward nine years, and here we are on board a (hopefully) tension-filled cinematic jet again. Only this time instead of Foster looking for her mysteriously-disappeared daughter (seriously, no one saw her?), Liam Neeson is trying to prevent all kinds of mayhem. And though it’s not much at all to say Non-Stop is better than Flightplan, it really does hold its own. If you can suspend disbelief more than a few times, you may just well enjoy it.
Faint praise, sure– but after the godawful January and February we’ve been having (minus The Lego Movie), I’ll take anything at this point.
Neeson is Bill Marks, a grizzled Air Marshal who has clearly seen better days– and that’s before he even climbs on board. He’s an alcoholic, looks likes he’s slept in the same clothes for days, and there’s something mysterious about his daughter, whose worn photo he keeps in his visor. Once the New-York-to-London flight gets in the air, Marks starts getting anonymous text messages stating that someone on the plane will die every twenty minutes unless $150 million is transferred to a bank account.
When the account turns out to be in Marks’ name and the bodies start piling up, the passengers (and the TSA) start suspecting Marks himself. And thus begins the race against time.
Jaume Collet-Serra, who also directed Neeson in 2011’s Unknown, has actually managed to cobble together a better-than-decent “Die Hard on a Plane” flick here. He uses the tight quarters to effectively ramp up the tension throughout, and his superbly-choreographed fight sequences (including a brilliant how’d-he-do-that? one in a cramped lavatory) help make up for some of the movie’s more serious faults.
Aside from the inevitable plot holes, courtesy of screenwriters John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, and Ryan Engle (newbies, all), Collet-Serra goes to the red-herring well way more than necessary. “The camera stays on that person a second too long! It must be him! No, wait, she’s looking suspicious! It must be her! Heck, it’s probably just that cute seven-year-old girl clutching tightly to her Paddington bear!”
Neeson, for his part, plays his Taken role again perfectly. And he’s surrounded by an above-average cast, including Julianne Moore, House of Cards‘ Corey Stoll, and Downton Abbey‘s Lady Mary herself, Michelle Dockery.
Sure, Non-Stop‘s shortfalls will become more obvious the more you think about it, but, in all fairness, this isn’t a movie you should be thinking too hard about. Sometimes you just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.