As silly as certain elements of the Liam Neeson actioner Non-Stop are, the entertainment value is clearly there. It's a film completely aware of a formula and unafraid (or too lazy to resist) ticking those boxes. Most probably wouldn't enjoy seeing this kind of thing exclusively or over and over again, but as a distraction between better and more ambitious movies Non-Stop is pretty good fun.
The first hour or so, before the corner it paints itself into becomes an issue, is especially involving. Neeson is playing Bill Marks, a U.S. air marshal with personal demons, the details of which become more clear as the picture progresses. He's seen at the beginning using alcohol to numb the undisclosed pain prior to entering the airport. We see him even trying to get out†of taking this particular flight, to no avail. Neeson here is reuniting with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra. He plays a perfectly weary and strong guy who must function†as the only character the audience can really trust. Unfortunately, for Marks, hardly anyone else shares such confidence in him.
The big, dumb plot has Neeson receiving text messages after the London-bound flight is over the Atlantic Ocean, apparently from another passenger. This would-be terrorist is demanding $150 million be sent to a specific bank account or someone will die every 20 minutes. Complications, as one might imagine, abound. The little twist, which isn't much of a spoiler but be forewarned regardless, is that the account has been registered in Neeson's character's name. This, combined with his already fragile personal situation, makes Neeson highly suspect among those on the ground from TSA, the media, etc. The film never quite lets the viewer consider too strongly that Neeson might actually be involved because the texts are seen coming in fast and furious as they hit his phone. More suspicious is pretty much every other character in the movie.
Taking second billing and acting as at least a *cough* red herring is Julianne Moore. She plays a somewhat kooky passenger desperate for a window seat who ends up next to Neeson, chatting him up as they leave the ground. This connection causes him to trust her perhaps more than the viewer would, though surely an ally - any ally - becomes a comfort. Other notable actors along for the ride include Corey Stoll, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Anson Mount as a fellow air marshal, and Lupita N'yongo. Funny how with an actor of Neeson's caliber and CV plus the frequently lauded Moore and even Stoll who was so good as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris, that it's N'yongo who's the only one with an Oscar among the cast. Playing not even the main flight attendant, she has very few lines here.
The worst part of Non-Stop occurs once it realizes that, oh yeah, some resolution has to emerge from this almost impossibly convoluted situation it creates. Lack of realism here, in something like this, is mostly okay. Still, seeing both the entire plane being able to watch live, local New York news while in the air and having one of the passengers' freshly uploaded videos of the events on the aircraft being seen during the newscast is a bit tough to swallow. Theoretically all of this might be possible but it sure seems unlikely. It's also unnecessary because that particular turn does little of note for the narrative.
By the time the eventual reveal happens, the good news is that Non-Stop still has our attention and the movie has done well in keeping several viable options in the mix. There's also a bomb involved, which comes off as something of an afterthought but pretty much serves as a way out of that corner. Regardless of the occasional silliness, the film functions exactly as it should. It's an effectively tense thriller which excels at holding the viewer's interest. This is a picture which passes the time as a distraction. That may sound like faint praise but it really isn't. Non-Stop would be recommended for anyone in need of 106 minutes of escape time from their daily lives. Pretty sure that encompasses quite a few of us.
Non-Stop hits the U.S. Blu-ray market with a region-free release from Universal. The package also includes a DVD and a code for a Digital Copy.
Picture quality is expectedly grand. Images are crisp and tight in the wide 2.40:1 frame. Unlike a great number of new releases, Non-Stop was actually shot on 35mm film. Here it's still pretty much indistinguishable from the digitally-made ones. It looks great. The dual-layered BD renders the action fluidly and offers bright, lively colors and shades. No issues whatsoever.
Audio comes in an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio†track. The dialogue emerges cleanly and at a strong, consistent volume. Effects similarly sound robust. The tenseness of the airplane's closed space is made good use of in the audio. It's an overall effective and muscular listen. Thankfully, no popping ears either. Dubs are also available for French and Spanish, both in 5.1 DTS-HD mixes. An English Descriptive Video Services track is here too. Subtitles are offered in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish and French.
A couple of very promotional-tinged extra features can be found on the Blu-ray disc. These include a spoiler-heavy piece called "Suspense at 40,000 Feet" (7:45) and the BD exclusive "Non-Stop Action" (5:10). Extremely basic stuff, with the latter focusing mainly on the action scenes and slowing them down enough so as to make the choreographed violence look a tad silly.
Several previews for upcoming titles play upon inserting the disc but the theatrical trailer for Non-Stop has not been included.
A DVD and digital copy code are also found inside the case.