Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Non-Stop review

Liam Neeson has really been on a roll lately churning out a lot of films in a short period of time. Not all of them have been good, but a lot of them have been commercial successes and he's even had some critical hits. Non-Stop lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to the critical side of things, but it has actually been a pretty big hit. Of course, it won't reach the level of the Taken films, but Non-Stop is a solid hit in its own right. And it's actually a really good movie. I was surprised by how much I liked this film. Non-Stop is a superbly entertaining thriller that feels a bit long, but also enthralls and compels you throughout. It was a very nice surprise.

Non-Stop tells the story of Bill Marks (Neeson), an alcoholic Federal Air Marshall who ends up being assigned on a flight from New York to London. After talking with one of the female passengers (Julianne Moore) for a little while, Marks begins to receive a series of text messages from an unknown man threatening to kill someone on the plane every twenty minutes if Marks doesn't pay him $150 million. Marks takes the threats seriously and soon, people start dying. In what soon becomes an international crisis, Marks becomes known to news outlets as the hijacker of the plane and must do everything in his power to save the plane and stop the man responsible.

If you haven't noticed, Liam Neeson has been doing a lot of action movies lately. From dumb blockbusters like The A-Team and Battleship to dead serious revenge thrillers like Taken and Unknown, Neeson is one of the premiere action stars these days. For me, Non-Stop is one of his best. It's a dark, intense mystery and one that is a lot of fun. Despite some questionable role choices, Neeson really is a great actor and he turns in a pretty good central turn here. I really liked him in the role and his character isn't flat. Bill Marks changes from beginning to end and that's always a good thing.

Non-Stop is first and foremost a mystery tale. I've heard some people compare it to a Hitchcock thriller, and while I really didn't get that vibe from it, Non-Stop definitely is a thriller. This is much more of a plot-driven thriller and isn't very similar to some of the other Neeson movies like Taken. However, that's one of the best things about this movie. Any movie can have an action star punching people and doing insane action stunts. Non-Stop has the guts to throw a plot in there too. It's a very well-written and well-directed film despite a few plot holes.

The cast in this movie is impressive even though some of the members of the cast are given nothing to do. Neeson is great in the lead role and Julianne Moore turns in a pretty good supporting turn. Famous faces like Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong'o, and Shea Wigham also show up throughout the film in limited roles. Dockery actually is an integral part of the story, but she isn't in there all that much. Scoot McNairy is also pretty good in an important supporting role. I'm loving the increased number of roles for McNairy since Argo. He's a really good actor and I love seeing him in these good movies.

*Side Note: If you haven't watched All Hail the King on the Thor 2 Blu-Ray, go do that now. McNairy is in that film as well and he's great in it. Ben Kingsley steals the show, but McNairy is great in it too.

One of the other things that I loved about this movie is that it's well directed and has a very distinct style. While it isn't necessarily a super-dark film in terms of tone, the color palette is extremely dark. That really helps the film maintain a dark, intense mood throughout. Director Jaume Collet-Serra keeps a serious tone throughout and a lot of that is because the cinematography is so good. In terms of how the film is shot, Non-Stop mixes a little shaky cam in with the regular camerawork. Overall, it's a well directed film and I was very impressed with what Collet-Serra did here.

However, without a doubt, the best part about this movie is that it's really, really entertaining. This is a movie that remains edge-of-your-seat thrilling from beginning to end and never lets up. It's always interesting, it's always thrilling and although it does feel a little long, it's always entertaining. I was really surprised by this film. While it isn't high art, Non-Stop is a great piece of entertainment and a well-written, well-directed movie. Sometimes, that's all you need. Non-Stop was everything that I wanted and needed when I stepped into the theater to watch it. That's when you truly know that a movie has done its job.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                              (8.1/10)

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