Non-Stop: Put your hands in the air like the director just don't care.
As an avid reader, I like the way that text messages are insinuating themselves into television shows and movies. As federal air marshal Bill Marks, Liam Neeson spends much of the beginning of Non-Stop texting with a mysterious villain who threatens to kill a passenger on the London-bound international flight that he's charged with protecting. The bad guy says someone will die in twenty minutes, unless one hundred and fifty million dollars is deposited in a bank account. But the plot doesn't matter so much as the way it's communicated: the texts swirl around Neeson, like a swarm of gnats. He reads them and he writes them, and there's no corny voice-overs reading the texts aloud. For a few minutes, Non-Stop requires almost as much reading as a foreign film.
That's about the only relation it bears to your stereotypical foreign film, mind you. It's kind of hilarious that Non-Stop is being released on Oscar weekend, because it's just about everything that Academy Award-winning films aren't: It's dumb as a post, the action is poorly directed, and it's not at all interested in being artful. You've seen this Neeson before: He's a big movie tough-guy, growling first and asking questions later. Bill Marks is an alcoholic failure of a man, but he still can kill a man with his bare hands if he gets pissed off enough.
Some of Non-Stop is solid shlocky b-movie fun, a locked-room mystery told by a babbling drunk. Happily, Julianne Moore brings more vivaciousness to her supporting-lady character than is strictly necessary. And the vexing constraints of airline travel plays nicely against Neeson's mammoth frame—every time Marks has to go somewhere to think, he winds up in a cramped bathroom, because it's the only place that provides any privacy on an airplane.
With a script that gave the plane's passengers a little more life, and with a more talented director, Non-Stop could have been a great little action movie. But the climactic scenes are so poorly directed that the movie basically collapses into a puddle, and certain scenes drag on so long that the audience can stop to reflect on how stupid the whole premise is. Non-Stop had one damn job, and it's right there in the title of the film. We're reminded on a couple occasions that the plane the movie is set on is flying at 500 miles per hour. Why couldn't the movie move at that speed, too?