Neeson's Passenger 58 really isn't as bad as critics are making out
I'm not sure what film everybody else was watching, but there's nothing wrong with Non-Stop.Sure, it may be a familiar, paint-by-numbers thriller by today's standards, but it would have been an R-rated hit at the box office in the early nineties as a vehicle for someone like Seagal (think: Under Siege 3), and, realistically, the reinvented Neeson action man figure is the plan B answer to the Snipes's, Stallones, Schwarzeneggers and Seagals of yesteryear. Plan A being: Statham.Perhaps, given Neeson's involvement, critics were expecting another Taken, but that really was an exception to the B-movie action thriller rules. And a big part of why its success hasn't been replicated is to do with ratings. None of Neeson's subsequent actioners have been R-rated; for adults. Not just in terms of swearing and violence, but in terms of actual tone.
Personally, I think we should just all be grateful that this wasn't another Taken 2 debacle, which was a distinct possibility considering that it comes from the inauspicious reunion of newly-fashioned action hero Neeson and the same director that he worked with on the largely unremarkable Unknown.
Non-Stop may not rise to lofty, memorable heights, but it still offers an entertaining ride.
US Air Marshal Bill Marks is a troubled, underslept alcoholic. Midway through a New York-London flight he starts to receive threatening texts across his supposedly secure Marshalls' network from a passenger who says he will kill somebody on the flight every 20 minutes until he gets $150 million. With nobody to trust and no one else really believing that the threat is real, it falls upon Marks to find the guy before the death toll rises.
Non-Stop offers a competent premise and, whilst it doesn't fully capitalise on the potential for escalating tension, it does deliver its fair share of thrills, as we watch Neeson's haggard Air Marshall struggle to contain the increasing panic aboard the flight, deal with troublesome passengers and potential threats, and face mistrust from his superiors on the ground.
The end result is a perfectly serviceable action thriller which boasts a few nice fight sequences - claustrophobically framed within the tight confines of the aircraft - as well as a twisty-turny plot that keeps you guessing from one familiar face to the next as to just who can be trusted, and who is behind it all. It's not particularly clever, but it is sharply paced and succinct in its dissemination of the plot breadcrumbs, keeping you invested if only because you want to know who the hell is orchestrating this chaos.
Thanks to the trailer the ending is no more surprising than the downward plummet of the Enterprise in Into Darkness.
Perhaps some of the criticisms levelled at it have come regarding the ending but, honestly, it's not that sizeable a drop in comparison with the rest of the feature. Sure, money and motivations get a little muddled, but this really isn't the kind of movie where you want to go looking for holes to pick. In fact, I'd be more annoyed by the promotion of the movie - worthy of a lengthy article of disdain in itself - as the trailers for Non-Stop seek to rob it of any and all of its admittedly limited surprise value. It seems the marketing guys have the final word, apparently failing to fully grasp the ramifications of revealing every gunshot, and every explosion, in a film which keeps both to its final few minutes.
It's hard to say for certain, but without some of the prior knowledge afforded by these trailers, this film may have legitimately lobbied for an extra point on its score, and it's a shame that the very promotion that gets us interested in these movies is the same that divulges all too much information about their central plot twists. Why would anybody who has seen the trailer for Oblivion, for example, be invested in the opening conceit that Cruise and his partner are the last two souls on Earth? So too, here, as we wait around for something big to happen aboard the flight, knowing full-well from the trailer that it isn't a matter of whether or not it will happen, but just when.
Amidst the small niche group of aircraft-based action thrillers, like Passenger 57 and Executive Decision, Non-Stop sits proudly, acting like the nineties never ended.
Marketing grievances aside, there's really nothing to moan about when it comes to Non-Stop. Admittedly it struggles hard to stand out from the crowd, but it's thoroughly unobjectionable fare, weaving enough mystery into the in-flight shenanigans to sustain interest between its tense exchanges, and once again relying on the broad shoulders of Neeson to carry its weight through to its final destination.
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