In theaters Friday, Feb. 28.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Early on in this thriller, the captain of an aircraft dismisses a potential terrorist threat by telling Liam Neeson's concerned air marshal to simply "sit back, relax and enjoy the flight." The line is a groaner -- not just because the impending doom is obvious to anyone with a single brain cell, but Neeson doesn't do Zen.
Indeed, the strapping Irish thespian has made an impressive second career out of playing the intellectual action hero. Mess with him, and start planning your own funeral. (This applies to animals too. See: The Grey). Yet, the original Taken aside, Neeson has yet to find the ideal vehicle to match his very specific set of acting skills. And with Non-Stop, he must once again carry a generic outing on his weary shoulders.
A chain-smoking alcoholic undercover officer, Neeson is sitting antsy in first class when he receives an ominous text: A passenger is going to die every 20 minutes until $150 million is wired into a bank account. (The texts are displayed on screen in big bubbles and typed with an auto-correct. At least someone cares about proper spelling at 40,000 feet!). After a quick walk up-and-down the aisles and a chat with the TSA higher-ups, he gets more dire news: Turns out that the account is in his name, making him suspect No. 1.
It's a tantalizing premise, leading to steady waves of whodunit tension. Any of the 150-plus passengers and crew could be the anonymous evil mastermind, including the red-headed passenger (Julianne Moore, fab as always) next to him who pleaded hard for that coveted window seat. Moviegoers playing along might also eye the vaguely suspicious, handsome young co-pilot because he has an accent and a secret.
The fun finger pointing, however, is marred by illogical head-scratchers. Surely a suitcase full of cocaine would never end up in the overhead compartment, no matter who brought it onboard. Somehow, this ties into an extortion subplot and a dead body in the bathroom. (And yet the captain still doesn’t take Neeson's warning seriously and turn the London-bound aircraft around!)
Meanwhile, the flick features every airplane disaster cliché this side of Airplane! Bad enough that our favorite air marshal deals with turbulence that strikes at the most inconvenient moments; must he also soothe the Smarmy Bigot, Unruly Punk, Scared Stewardess and Angelic Child Flying By Herself? When a crewmember is predictably rubbed out, one half-expects Otto Pilot to inflate. With such a bumpy descent, better make sure that movie ticket isn’t non-refundable.