What makes a good action film is of course action. Then of course there are also those other pesky elements such as story, character, dialogue, and so on. If you put all those elements together and fine-tune them, you can have a good film. Non-Stop may not be your typical thrill a minute, action story, but somehow, on some level it delivers.
Once we get through the ordinary introduction of characters, we board the flight in which the action will take place for most of the film. Liam Neeson plays air marshall Bill Marks who is aboard a transatlantic flight and soon discovers a terrorist plot unfold. He receives a text message asking Bill to persuade the airline to wire $150 million to a bank account. And if he is unable to do so in the next 20 minutes, someone on the plane will die. He believes it is one of the passengers, but as he tries to unravel the plot of this mysterious terrorist, he more and more becomes a suspect by the other passengers due to his erratic behavior.
Bill is probably the most complex character on the plane. He still suffers from a personal tragedy, he’s tired and suffers from alcoholism. But on the surface, he seems tough, determined and headstrong. The other supporting actors were decent, but they didn’t seem to have much depth to their character. And that’s not necessarily their fault. The material provided by writers John W. Richardson and Christopher Roach didn’t provide the characters a rich background. However, this did work to some advantage for the story. Since Bill is unsure who the terrorist is, he suspects one of the passengers. So the other characters have a mystery surrounding them, which keeps Bill (and the audience) guessing. Julianne Moore plays Jen Summers, one of the passengers who befriends Bill while boarding the plane. Corey Stoll is New York cop Austin Reilly, Scoot McNairy is a tech geek named Tom Bowen, Michelle Dockery is flight attendant Nancy, Lupita Nyong’o is another flight attendant Gwen, Anson Mount is Bill’s fellow marshall Jack Hammond.
Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan, Unknown, and this summer’s The Shallows) directed the film and made it his own. It may not have the making of an elaborate masterpiece of action, thrills and suspense, but it does provide a well-paced film with enough moments of character and story to keep me in. The film runs one hour and 46 minutes and was released February 28, 2014.