To put it simply, Non-Stop is a generic action movie. It is not by any mean a bad film; it just doesn’t really have anything special about it. The “Die Hard on a plane” premise has been done before, but the direction from Jaume-Collet Saura, who improves upon his first film Unknown, makes it an enjoyable ride with a very good performance by Liam Neeson.
The beginning of the film starts out very melancholy and dark. Similar to many “Die Hard on a plane”, the film starts off with the routines of boarding a plane. This allows the underbidding tension to become present. But the way Non-Stop is directed allows the film to suggest that something is wrong with Liam Neeson’s character. Speaking of Neeson, he is excellent. Liam Neeson continues to be one of the best action film stars working in the business and even in the most ludicrous of action films; he manages to sell the film. Non-Stop completely rides on a strong leading performance, which Neeson definitely delivers.
As the film continues, the natural engagement of the plot kicks in and the film starts to become more interesting. Now, it’s difficult to say that the film has plot holes or doesn’t make sense. Technically, everything makes sense. But the film, similar to Unknown, requires massive leaps of logic from the audience. While every specific action makes sense, it needs everything to happen under very specific circumstances. The logic is absolutely not Hitchcock-esque, but it is serviceable for the type of film that is intended.
The film also suffers from poor supporting characters. While Jaume-Collet Saura does a very good job setting up and exploring Liam Neeson’s character, the supporting characters feel very generic. Julianne Moore specifically feels miscast and really doesn’t need to be in the film at all. When the villain is eventually revealed, the film takes a turn for the goofiest climax imaginable and looses the serious tone that the film had originally intended. The entire second half of the film takes many logic leaps and while it’s not bad, it definitely contrasts the tone set up in the first half. It’s not that one half of the film is better than another; it’s just that they are completely inconsistent.
The film uses many interesting visual tricks involving text messages, which help the tension build. A lot of the cinematography is good, but the film does suffer from shaky camerawork that feels very distracting. The sound design is very good, but the visual effects are atrociously bad. While bad CGI is forgivable with a good film, the effects are bad enough in the climax that the film’s tension is lost. The score is very good, but slightly underused.
Non-Stop is a very enjoyable thrill ride with an excellent performance by Liam Neeson. While the tone is inconsistent, the film still manages to be entertaining and engaging throughout its well paced 107 minute runtime. In terms of action films, Non-Stop is relieving by relying on tension and old school tricks as opposed to big explosions and action sequences. Non-Stop won’t win any Oscars, but it is certainly an enjoyable film. Grade: C