Airplanes are a very prolific subgenre in the disaster film category, as shown by Airport (1970) – which grossed over $100 million, spawned three sequels, and was the basis of parody movie Airplane! (1980). It’s a very understandable fear. At 30,000 feet in the air, nobody wants to hear that their plane is crashing. When you combine this with the McGuffin from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), the results should be promising. Especially when you have all-star actors like Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, and Scoot McNairy. However, in the case of Non-Stop, an uninspired script prevents the film from really taking flight.
The beginning of the movie starts out slow. Liam Neeson’s character, Bill, is a federal air marshal – a controversial job as his car radio reminds you. The events that lead to the airlift are tedious and clichéd, with the film going so far as to include a bit about Bill being afraid of the plane’s takeoff. However, once the transatlantic flight begins, things get interesting. Bill gets a text threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into a bank account. The bank account is Bill’s though, and as the story begins to unfold, Bill is set up to appear as if he is hijacking the plane. The middle 50% of the film is intense and wildly entertaining. Unfortunately though, in the end, when the movie tries to explain itself, it falls flat. With numerous plot-holes and a downright cringe-worthy motivation for the villain, Non-Stop leaves you feeling unfulfilled.
Liam Neeson doesn’t do anything astounding in this film, but he gives a solid performance. His supporting cast does well with what they’re given, but at times what they’re given isn’t all that much. There aren’t too many awkwardly-delivered lines, and the extras (who, as most of the film takes place inside of a plane, were on set for weeks) all seem to be committed. Julianne Moore is great as always, and Scoot McNairy adds dimension to an otherwise cartoonish character. Recent Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o even has a bit part.
Setting the majority of a film in a confined space can lead to a claustrophobic feel, which is very effective for the bulk of the story. However, when the movie transitions from a thriller to an action film, the lack of space leads to bad fight choreography and an inability to see what is going on. The quick cuts only worsen the situation.
Walking out of the film, you’ll begin to notice an increasing amount of plot-holes and conveniences. While watching the movie, you’ll need to turn your brain off partially so as to not be distracted by the sheer ridiculousness, but not so much that you aren’t invested in the story. Non-Stop is an enjoyable film, but also pretty stupid. 6/10.