Non-Stop (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2014)

Unfolding almost exactly as you’d expect it to, Non-Stop is typically meatless genre fare at its unmitigated finest. Following presumably grief-stricken air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) as an anonymous individual promises one death per twenty minutes on a transatlantic flight, a semi-taut narrative unfolds as Agent Marks struggles to wade through bullshit on a path toward justice. Inevitably suffering through a barrage of obstacles on his way to achieving said goal, the marshal must do his best to put his troubled past behind him and prove his innocence, that is if the word itself is something he assuredly possesses.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot I can lovingly profess about Non-Stop, what with its opening first third illustrating the general public’s cliched perception of airline-centric terrorist plots to little success. Opting to instead exploit the skeleton of a script it feels like it was conceived as, the film plays like a web diagram comprised of average twists and turns, a sense of unpredictability ringing effective if a bit too familiar as events unfold. Even still, Non-Stop confidently employs this familiarity in an appealingly oppressive manner to produce a satisfactory end result.

As passengers and our lead’s sanity are alternately questioned, perceptions of what’s true and what isn’t are predictably debatable, however a notable air of intelligence tends to override foreseeable humanistic naivety in similarly illustrated scenarios. As stand-ins undoubtedly spout their concerns regarding an increasingly disgraced air marshal’s rough-and-tumble actions, the marshal himself and relevant key players – good or sinister – are compelling enough as individuals to carry the production through substandard procedural nonsense.

When you get down to brass tacks, Non-Stop is a lesser counterpart to comparably straightforward action-suspense efforts. Exploiting its powerful lead’s charisma and corresponding character flaws, the film satisfyingly jerks viewers’ predictions around to varying degrees of success. As it remains intelligent enough barring some latter act (and overall) ridiculousness, Non-Stop can at least be held in a higher regard than a vast majority of typically unbearable early-year fare. It goes through the motions, however the proceedings remain agreeably compelling enough to warrant the price of admission as Agent Neeson runs the gamut on his opposition.

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