There is palpable tension and even a discordant note in every scene of the new film “Non-Stop.”
This is clearly Liam Neeson’s movie, and he is riveting as Bill Marks, a federal air marshal who boards a transatlantic flight only to start receiving text messages from someone onboard demanding $150 million. Along with the demand is the promise that someone will be killed every 20 minutes if the demand isn’t met.
Wow. The hook is set, and I’m buckled up for the ride.
As the taunting texts appear, more and more is revealed about the air marshal himself. It is obvious that Marks is a troubled man. We see him bolstering himself with a stiff drink in his car as he heads for the terminal. We witness his edginess as he goes through the lines and the process of boarding. We discover he hates to fly, and as the plane lifts off, his seat-mate, Jen — played by Julianne Moore — notes his anxiety and tries to distract him with small talk and a gentle touch.
He is so uptight that he sneaks off to the restroom, duct tapes the smoke detector and relishes a few drags on a cigarette — a clear violation of a federal law. This is when the first text appears.
But who is sending the messages?
I need to be very careful from this point on because I don’t want to anything to be a spoiler. Let me just say that as the air marshal starts to look at everyone on the flight as a suspect, and people do indeed start to die, his personal demons undermine his credibility while a very complex conspiracy unfolds. Ground control starts to doubt him, the crew is suspicious and the passengers’ fears reach a boiling point.
This is a first-rate thriller. Now, admittedly, you don’t want to overthink the plot and the plausibility. I previously mentioned the complexity. Well, that might have been an understatement. But still, I was fully invested for each of the 106 minutes. I bought it all.
Neeson is fabulous in delivering a very tough yet kind and vulnerable character. Moore, as usual, is wonderful. Then there’s a great supporting cast, almost each member of which, in the course of the flight, is a suspect.
I acknowledge there are flaws, but it’s been a long time since I‘ve enjoyed a thriller this much. It’s rated PG-13, and I’m giving “Non-Stop” 3½ stars.