Even if you're an action movie junkie, there haven't been many good titles released in this genre for a while now. For some reason, some filmmakers think that by simply adding guns and explosions into a motion picture, it will instantly be thought of as a fun action flick. However, a lot of them start to blend together into a part of our brains that meshes and soon forgets them. Similar to any other genre, action films have their own beats to consider, but every feature should have its own skin that covers the structure that makes it an original. It's such a shame that so many films leave this base exposed, allowing audiences to see right through every twist and turn. For the most part, people seemed to enjoy the first Taken. While I'm not much of a fan, I see how some would find it to be a fun moviegoing experience. Well, if you liked the way it played out, then you're probably already excited for Liam Neeson's newest picture by the name of Non-Stop, also known as Taken on a Plane. Perhaps this will be your cup of tea more than it is mine.
There is a lot more underneath the surface of Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) than most are aware of. He's an air marshal with several personal issues that some may view to be an issue when it comes to his position of ensuring the safety of the passengers on board flight after flight. He finds himself sitting next to Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), who is desperate for a window seat. Tension increases when Bill receives a series of text messages threatening to kill a passenger every twenty minutes. The only way to get out of this situation is to complete an airline transfer of $150 million to an off-shore account. Stuck in mid-flight over the ocean on a flight to Europe, Bill Marks must find who is responsible before it's too late.
At a glance, Non-Stop appears to follow a very familiar structure, but it seems to have an intriguing concept to keep things fresh. With the majority of the running time occurring on an airplane, I was hoping that this would provide for a thrilling venture that would keep us guessing who is responsible for the events taking place. The beginning of the film offers an intriguing premise, as we're constantly kept on high alert as to who the individual could be. Screenwriters John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, and Ryan Engle have created a successful build that is suspenseful and has a great hook. Non-Stop has ahold of us at this point, but once the film really starts moving, it loses us. This is when the cat-and-mouse games truly begin to show how ridiculous they are. None of it feels real, which causes the movie to lose quite a bit of its tension.
You know those scenes in the trailer where the air marshal is receiving text messages from the antagonist? Well, that happens a lot in this film. Just when the pacing starts to appear as being smooth and the picture pulls us in, the texting sequences quickly pull us back out. It truly affects the pacing in a negative way and makes us very conscious of the fact that we're watching a movie. While some of these scenes are necessary, they shouldn't take up nearly as much of the running time as they do. Unfortunately, this isn't the only questionable decision made by director Jaume Collet-Serra. He continues to capitalize on making certain characters incredibly suspicious for no reason. The film constantly feels the need to tell us who to suspect. Why make everything so painstakingly obvious? Non-Stop had me on the edge of my seat as it was introducing the major obstacle for our protagonist to face, but it left me sighing in disappointment with the way that it handled the whole "Who did it?" angle.
Even though Non-Stop doesn't really ever end up surprising its viewers, it's still pretty entertaining. Don't expect to be entirely engrossed, but it's not the worst way to spend 106 minutes. Bill Marks is actually a little bit more relatable than most action stars, which definitely helps us in sympathizing with our hero. This isn't quite as action-filled as one might expect, but it does have some violence. Since most of the film takes place on an airplane, don't expect many explosions or shoot outs. Most of these sequences are covered with hand-to-hand combat and "ordinary-item-turned-weapon" fights. Even though you won't necessarily be enthralled in the plot, it's definitely fun to watch this air marshal fight a man using only an oxygen mask from the plane. I doubt that many people will be paying to see this for the story anyways, but action fans will most likely enjoy the fight scenes themselves.
Oddly enough, there are three Oscar nominees onboard this flight. The first of which is Liam Neeson, who plays our lead character, Bill Marks. He's become quite the action star over the years. He's definitely fun to watch in these types of roles, even though they aren't very complex. He's convincing as an air marshal and he helps carry our attention, even when the pacing is ruined. The second is Julianne Moore in the role of Jen Summers. She gets quite a bit of screen time and makes complete use of it. She's believable in the character, and delivers the more emotional lines quite well. The third Oscar-nominee is Lupita Nyong'o as one of the flight attendants, named Gwen. This is such an extremely small part, that she never really gets the opportunity to do much of anything. Meanwhile, audiences will surely recognize Downton Abbey star, Michelle Dockery. She plays another flight attendant named Nancy. She has numerous scenes interacting with Liam Neeson, and she does a good job keeping her lines as believable as possible. Overall, the acting is quite decent, but nobody is able to save the film when the dialogue and plot go sour.
There aren't any sweeping landscapes or large-scale car chases, as expected. Even though director Jaume Collet-Serra made some truly questionable decisions, he does handle the look of the picture quite well. The visuals look pretty good, including the CG work done around the plane. The most impressive work here is actually the fight choreography. There are some pretty entertaining scenes that will hold your attention due to how the hand-to-hand combat is utilized. However, the director made some poor decisions towards the climax of the film when it comes to how the final action scene would play out. It got a bunch of unintentional laughs at my press screening, and I'm betting that it won't be very different once it hits theaters nationwide.
Some audiences are incredibly excited to see how this turns out, while others are incredibly skeptical. However, it really turned out to be a bit under average. The premise itself is interesting, and the film kicks off to a great start with a strong hook. Unfortunately, it isn't able to maintain our interest throughout. There are several twists and turns taken that are incredibly far-fetched and director Jaume Collet-Serra made some horrible decisions when it came to telling this story visually. However, those who are simply looking to be entertained will find that this action thriller has some redeeming qualities. Non-Stop makes too many unfortunate stops to make it worth traveling to the cinemas to see. Rent it.