Non-Stop (2014)

(On Cable TV, November 2014) Is it time for yet another Liam Neeson thriller?  A better question would be: when isn’t it time for another Liam Neeson thriller?  An action star at a time when most other actors his age are trying to get out of the strenuous business, Neeson reliably takes on another grizzled veteran able to intimidate grown men simply by stepping into frame.  Here, he’s back in action as a federal Air Marshall who discovers an intricate conspiracy aboard his flight.  Racing against time, will he be able to discover who’s goading him by text messages?  It’s not a big plane, and there are only 150 suspects…  Director Jaume Collet-Serra handled the ensuing madness with occasional flourishes of style (most notably with a shot floating throughout the airplane), never quite letting the insanity of the script run away from him.  It’s a little bit demented, but just enough to keep the screws tightened during an exercise in a familiar “plane in peril” sub-genre.  (It’s quite a bit better than Flight Plan, if anyone remembers that)  While the specifics of the plot don’t always make sense, and the rationale behind the plot isn’t something that can really be explained while sober, there’s something interesting about an airplane thriller revolving around the very notion of inflight post-9/11 anti-terrorism security.  (Also ingenious: The on-screen effects showing us the text messages read by the characters.)  Lupita Nyong’o was cast in this film quite some time before winning an Oscar, so don’t be surprised to see that she has practically an extended cameo.  While the result isn’t particularly good, it is good enough to be entertaining when it needs to be, and fully exploits the added gravitas that Neeson can bring to any role.

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