You’re never going to see this suspense thriller on a plane – because it’s a truly terrifying commentary on TSA screening and airline safety protocols. Read on…
Weary Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a battered, boozing U.S. Air Marshal assigned to work a British Aqualantic 767 from New York City to London on a cold, wintry day. Sighing with resignation, he walks through the airport, profiling potential troublemakers before settling into a Business Class aisle seat, next to flirtatious Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), who’s determined to sit near the window. Shortly after takeoff, Marks’ cellphone alerts him to a series of threatening text messages, obviously from someone on-board, demanding $150 million be deposited into a certain bank or someone will die every 20 minutes.
Sneaking off to smoke in the lav after adroitly blocking the alarm sensor, Marks suspects it’s a joke concocted by a fellow Air Marshal but that’s not the case – and the body count begins to mount. Trusting only Jen and the two flight attendants – Nancy (Michelle Dockery a.k.a. Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey”) and Gwen (Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar winner for “12 Years a Slave”) – Marks tries to narrow down the list of suspects. There’s that Middle Eastern doctor, a surly bald man, a hotheaded NYPD cop, the black computer whiz and a bespectacled schoolteacher, among others. Complications arise when the offshore account turns out to be in Marks’ own name. As cellphone videos of the increasing chaos are picked up by TV news, reporters assert that the flight has been hijacked by an Air Marshal, and rebellious passengers grow alarmingly suspicious of their alleged protector. Two military jet escorts appear alongside, transmitting orders to the pilot who is – by now – barricaded in the cockpit.
Skillfully directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”), 61 year-old Liam Neeson has the gravitas to make the implausible action compelling, working from a chock-full-of-red-herring script by first-timers John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Non-Stop” is an edge-of-your-seat 8, a dandy whodunit.