‘Non-Stop’: A Fun B-Movie With A-List Actors

February 28, 2014 Updated: February 28, 2014

As Oskar Schindler, Liam Neeson won an Oscar. Now he’s Action-man. Some people complain about this. “How could Liam take these lowly B-movie jobs? Why him?”

The man is 6 feet 4 inches and a former professional heavyweight boxer. Why not him?

They don’t call it the Arts & Entertainment section for nothing. Oskar was art. Air Marshal Bill is entertainment. “Non-Stop” is quite a good B-movie. It’s like going to Six Flags Great Adventure. Shut up and eat your popcorn.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a former cop. Now he’s an alcoholic air marshal who hates flying. We know this because he drinks in the parking lot before the flight. He’s the usual come-from-behind, demon-battling hero. 

Scare in the Air

So we get up in the transatlantic air, and Air Marshal Bill (not to be confused with Jim Carrey’s Fire Marshal Bill) starts receiving extortion text messages over the airline’s secure network. The anonymous bad guy wants $150 million in a bank account or a passenger will be croaked every 20 minutes.

Right away it’s riveting—how’s the bad guy going to pull that off in this flying tin can without Bill saying, “I will find you, and I will kill you”? Because we know that’s Neeson’s action thing—he finds people and kills them. But bodies accumulate nevertheless. Whodunnit? Whoisit?

Fabulous art-y actress Julianne Moore plays a character sitting next to Air Marshal Bill. Lupita Nyong’o from “12 Years a Slave” and Michelle Dockery from “Downton Abbey” play flight attendants.

See? Three more art-y actresses slumming in the entertainment circus. Not to mention the pilot, played by Linus Roache. But Liam’s still the scapegoat? Please.

Where were we? Oh yes—Corey Stoll (from “House of Cards”) is an NYPD cop who plays with his phone too much.

Lots of people on the plane are playing with their phones too much. We’re looking for people playing with phones, right? Air Marshal Bill is looking, and we’re trying to help him look. In certain movie theaters, it’s guaranteed you will actually hear audience members trying to help Bill look.

There’s a lot of texting in the world today. There’s a lot of texting in this movie. They should have titled the movie “Non-Stop Texting.” It’s conceivable that when Neeson goes back to art, he’ll play Macbeth the Brooklyn Academy of Music and text, “Is this a dagger I see before me?” And it’ll come up on a big iPhone-like screen so we can all partake in the texting.

It’s possible you could be too smart phone—I mean, smart for—this movie. If you can figure out where all the mysterious texting comes from, this movie’s not for you.

But this reviewer is not that smart, couldn’t figure any of it out, felt tremendous tension from start to finish, and was on the edge of his seat the whole time.

The rest of the screening audience was apparently just as dumb, because when “Non-Stop” finally stopped at its ridiculous CGI deus ex machina finale, everyone cheered and clapped.

That’s usually the sign of a satisfactory release of tension. People cheer and clap when the roller coaster finally arrives back at the starting gate, too.

Go and enjoy this guilt-free thrill ride. Neeson will eventually win another Oscar someday.

Text your friends afterward. If you text during the movie, it’ll hasten our movie-going society to its inevitable conclusion—the experience will be soon become a multitasking, attention-wrecking affair of viewing, popcorn scarfing… and non-stop texting.


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery
Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 28
Rated PG-13

3.5 stars out of 5

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch