Liam Neeson was once considered anything but an action hero. Oh, sure, he did the occasional Star Wars or Batman movie, but he still was no Jason Bourne or anything. Then came Taken in early 2009. The A-Team followed in early 2010. Then Unknown the year after. Then The Grey. Then Taken 2. As the opening months of 2014 wind to a close, Neeson once again returns to the big screen, gun in hand, in Non-Stop.
Neeson now plays Bill Marks, a U.S. air marshal on a New York-to-London flight. Midflight, he begins receiving text messages from an unknown number, threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless he’s paid $150 million.
As Bill Marks — a character indistinguishable from Taken’s Bryan Mills or Unknown’s Martin Harris — Neeson is… well, on auto-pilot. It’s not a bad performance by any means, but it’s absolutely nothing you haven’t seen Neeson do if you’ve seen any movie he’s made in the last five years.
As with any film version of a locked-room scenario, there is a finite number of characters but every important archetype manages to be present. There’s a passenger who befriends Marks with her kindness (Julianne Moore); a kind flight attendant who doesn’t know who to trust (Michelle Dockery); a loud-mouthed police officer who’s not content to sit quietly (Corey Stoll); another air marshal (Anson Mount); and numerous other, nameless people (reduced to accents and costumes), just to allow for red herrings and plot twists.
The movie isn’t outright terrible, but it’s remarkably forgettable. Just a few hours after watching Non-Stop, it’s hard to remember much of its bland plot or derivative dialogue. The potential for a good action movie is present in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but once the airplane reaches cruising altitude, the promise of a great action movie vanishes faster than Neeson’s American accent.
Here’s another list: Red Tails, Snakes on a Plane, Soul Plane, Stealth, and Flightplan. Every one of those mediocre, airplane-set movies faded faster from people’s memories than vapour trails. Non-Stop is destined to join that list — that is, if anyone ends up remembering it at all.