Because Non-Stop stars Liam Neeson, it’s constantly being referred to as Taken in the Air, or Taken on a Plane, or some variation of that. In truth, it really doesn’t have that much in common with Taken at all, aside from the fact that Liam Neeson is in it. If anything, Non-Stop is sort of like a remake of Passenger 57, but since it’s Neeson instead of Wesley Snipes, it can’t use that awesome line, “Always bet on black!” I have to give kudos to the makers of this film because we just don’t see many slow burn, suspense/thriller mysteries made on the big screen anymore. Something to do with the decline of the audience’s attention span and the demand for a big spectacle. Unfortunately, Non-Stop never really attains the lofty heights it reaches for, so, in the end, it ends up being just a middling, passably entertaining but ultimately forgettable suspense/thriller whose only real distinguishing feature is that Liam Neeson is awesome no matter what he does.
The sad thing is there are many parts of this film that work, but it’s never really able to click them all into place. The use of the text messaging between Neeson and the mysterious passenger with nefarious plans is done very well and builds some nice tension. I like that the film takes it’s time to unravel the plot, and even though there are holes big enough to fly a plane through, it’s still nice to see a movie that’s willing to take the slow burn approach. Unfortunately, this is supposed to be an edge-of-you-seat thriller, but I never got to the edge of my seat. In trying to insert it into that suspense/thriller genre it borrows so many elements from that far too many feel so familiar that the suspense never really builds to edge-of-your-seat levels. There are red herrings, misdirections, twists, and “surprises,” but they’ve all been done before in better movies, so none of it really feels surprising so much as “ah, well that makes sense because this is that kind of movie.” I quickly began expecting the next box of the suspense/thriller formula to be dutifully ticked off, and Non-Stop dutifully did just that. Entertaining, perhaps, but neither suspenseful nor thrilling. I also don’t like that the one big moment in the movie is actually ruined by the poster. It’s a cool scene, but I knew it was coming. It’s a shame to run the climax of a slow burn movie like this that’s supposed to have an explosive climax by making said moment a key part of the advertising. Then when you only have one big action scene, I guess you need to use it as a selling point.
Of course, this being the post-9/11 era, and since this is a movie about airplanes and security, that correlation has to be brought up at some point. Done well, touching on that could have added some real poignancy to this story. However, the way that topic is dealt with is neither subtle nor elegant. It’s handled like a blunt object, which again is another missed opportunity. Still, it brings up a good point; is there such a thing as security? Are we ever really secure? The truth is that’s a question we need to not only consider for the here and now but for eternity as well. We can get obsessed with making sure we and our families are secure and safe on a day-to-day basis, but what about when this life is over? It seems short sighted to work for security for the brief days we have on this rock and not even consider what happens after. Jesus Christ addressed this very issue. He asked what good is it if we gain the whole world but forfeit our souls. (Matthew 16:26) And he talked of how we could grant security in eternal life, how we can truly be safe in the hands of our Heavenly Father. (John 10:28) In short, if you want to know real security, Jesus has the answers. We need more than just security for the here and now, which may or may not be an illusion, but security for the hereafter as well, which is not illusion but a fact provided by the death and resurrection of the man who is God.
As I watched Non-Stop, there were some in the audience who laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, and granted, some of it stretches credulity far beyond the breaking point. Still, I appreciated the fact that the movie at least tried to do something that isn’t attempted much in today’s movie and instead, harkened back to past glories of taut, methodical, suspense/thrillers. No, it doesn’t quite match up with any of its predecessors, but at least it tried and, in parts, it had the right elements to succeed but couldn’t quite bring them all together. In the end, Non-Stop is just one more B-level action vehicle for Liam Neeson. If you go in expecting that, and nothing more, you’ll be entertained…and nothing more.