Aboard a transatlantic flight, an air marshal (Neeson) is taunted by a villain bent on murder and mayhem. He will look for them, he will find them and he will kill them.
The fact that Liam Neeson has become an action-flick staple is fairly amazing, given the fact he’s rarely broken into a jog on screen, let alone delivered a spinning wushu attack. But where Taken at least gave him some hard-boiled one-liners as compensation, the sub-Hitchcockian, stunt-sparse Non-Stop (rarely has a film title been so inaccurate) makes it impossible for even the stolid Neeson to quicken pulses.
An undercover air marshal by the name of Bill Marks — presumably Mark Bills was already taken — he’s introduced sitting in a parked car outside an airport, sipping whisky. “I hate flying,” he growls. “The lines. The crowds. The delays.” Two hours later, you’ll likely be sharing his aviophobia. A well-made thriller can squeeze plenty of suspense-juice out of a single, claustrophobic location. A shonky one can fast become interminable. Almost entirely set aboard an “Aqualantic” jet, Non-Stop is scuppered by its assortment of deeply dull characters — including a jockish NYPD cop (Corey Stoll), a nervous flier (Julianne Moore) and a stewardess (12 Years A Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o, here stuck with 12 Words A Role) — plus the fact that, as a whodunnit, it’s fatally flawed.
In lieu of interrogations, chases and the like, the vast majority of the film is comprised of Neeson tapping text messages into a mobile phone, as he’s taunted by a shadowy adversary. Occasionally the texting happens in a toilet; sometimes there’s a typo and he has to tap back and fix it. None of this makes the endless SMS-ing any more exciting. To make matters worse, the shrill alert noise the hero’s phone makes EVERY TIME he gets a message becomes so maddening that it soon becomes tempting to root for the killer instead.
Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, who made the impressive Orphan but also House Of Wax and rubbish Neeson vehicle Unknown, tries to inject energy with a fist-fight and a last-minute splurge of CGI. But Non-Stop is weak sauce, a cheapie snoozer that not even heavyweights like Neeson and Moore can save. And the solution to the mystery, when it finally comes, is so dotty and unguessable, it might drive you to whisky yourself.
In-flight entertainment comparable to watching the back of the headrest. Just stop.