The claustrophobic confines of an airplane make a very effective setting for a thriller, which is probably why we’ve seen so many sky-high adventures in recent years.
“Non-Stop” tweaks the familiar template, making use of modern amenities (on-board Internet!), not-so-subtle post-9/11 paranoia and Liam Neeson’s natural charisma.
The story isn’t particularly plausible, but the considerably bumpy flight is a fun one.
Neeson stars as Bill Marks, an alcoholic federal air marshal reluctantly assigned to a transatlantic flight to London.
Yes, a drunk with a loaded gun on a plane is a recipe for disaster, but Marks is still good at his job, quickly assessing all the possible threats around him.
He’s not prepared, however, to get a text at 30,000 feet, threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired to a private account.
Sure enough, someone ends up dead, and more are certain to follow if Marks can’t uncover the lunatic texter. Unfortunately, the world below thinks that he’s gone rogue and is hijacking the airplane.
Neeson plays the frazzled loner well, and looks natural snapping necks and roughing up innocent passengers.
Julianne Moore plays a frazzled but talkative stranger who makes the mistake of taking the window seat next to the air marshal. Scoot McNairy (“Argo”) and Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”) are other passengers, and Anson Mount (“Hell on Wheels”) plays a second air marshal with problems of his own.
Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) finally gets a real job, as the lead flight attendant who has faith in Marks. Lupita Nyong’o’s follow-up performance to her Oscar-winning role in “12 Years a Slave” is a tiny part as another flight attendant.
“Non-Stop” has plenty of twists, even if some are far-fetched, and it rarely pauses to give the viewer time to think. It’s like those business class seats with a little extra leg room; not quite first class, but better than coach.
Rental recommendation: It wasn’t really good, but “Snakes on a Plane” was certainly unique. Grade: C-plus.
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Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery.
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references).
Running time: 106 minutes.