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Airplane Thriller

Non-Stop justifies Liam Neeson's late-career transition to action star

Liam Neeson in Non-Stop
Liam Neeson in Non-Stop. Photo by Myles Aronowitz
Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson in Non-Stop
Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson in Non-Stop. Photo by Myles Aronowitz
Lupita Nyong'o in Non-Stop
Lupita Nyong'o in Non-Stop. Photo by Myles Aronowitz

The careers for most actors tend to have the same arc, where you pay your dues making rom-coms and action movies before you have enough clout to start making prestige movies.

But 62-year-old Liam Neeson has done the opposite, stockpiling his serious work before reinventing himself as an action star late in life.

Not that you can blame him; if you’re as good at it as he is and studios are willing to pony up the big bucks, why not enjoy yourself? Non-Stop is Neeson’s latest film in the Taken vein, casting him as world-weary alcoholic federal air marshal Bill Marks, whose world is thrown for a loop when someone starts sending anonymous threats on board a trans-Atlantic flight.

 Non-Stop is Neeson’s latest film in the Taken vein, casting him as world-weary alcoholic federal air marshal.

Things go progressively wrong for Marks, despite there being a limited number of suspects from which to choose.

Not knowing whom to trust, Marks turns to Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), his seatmate when the threats start, and Nancy (Michelle Dockery), a flight attendant with whom he’s flown many times.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra and a trio of writers do a solid job of amping up the suspense throughout the film. Things are kept relatively simple, with suspicion transferring from one person to another in a fast-paced but methodical manner. The protagonist having personal turmoil can be a cliché, but in this case it adds to the intrigue when things start to devolve on the plane.

There’s also subtle commentary on the plugged-in society that must be online no matter where they go, including on a plane, and the relatively lax security we have at airports. Although neither is the focus of the film, the way both come into play as the film reaches its somewhat ridiculous conclusion makes them worthy of mention.

Neeson, with his gruff demeanor and barely there Irish accent, is great in the role. The part only calls for a few scenes of true action, but his presence alone puts the audience on high alert.

Supporting turns by Moore, Dockery, Scoot McNairy and Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o also help to elevate the film from standard action fare to something a bit more respectable.

Non-Stop won’t win any awards, but Neeson stopped trying for those a while back. Instead, it’s a more-than-capable thriller that shows that he still hasn’t worn out his welcome in the genre.

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