The transformation to action hero continues for Liam Neeson in “Non-Stop,” a slightly preposterous concoction that manages to entertain with a neat little mystery wrapped up in all the silliness.
Neeson plays Bill Marks, a former police officer turned air marshal. While on a trans-Atlantic flight, Marks starts receiving text messages demanding $150 million be deposited in an offshore account. The person sending the messages says someone on the flight will die in 20 minutes and every subsequent 20 minutes if the demands aren’t met.
Marks sets out to hunt this person down, but things quickly spiral when Marks’ supervisors question his story, believing he is about to hijack the plane.
This leaves a desperate Marks not only trying to clear his name, but stop this person before they kill again.
If you stop to think about “Non-Stop, especially the last 10 minutes, it is easy to dismiss it as a ridiculous action flick.
But in the moment it’s a fun little thrill ride, with a rather interesting mystery about who is trying to set up Marks.
Neeson and Julianne Moore, as one of the passengers, help make it all easier to take. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously worked with Neeson on “Unknown” and also directed the underrated horror flick “Orphan,” keeps the film moving at a brisk pace while making good use of the claustrophobic setting.
The resolution does nearly take the film off the rails, especially when it tries to throw in a political message that feels forced, but it still works despite some rather obvious warts.
It’s a fun bit of escapism, as long as you don’t think about it afterwards.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is the well-deserved Academy Award best picture winner “12 Years a Slave” (A).
Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted in 1841 and sold into slavery, it is not an easy film to watch but may well be the quintessential film on American slavery.
This brave piece takes the uneasy subject and creates a superb piece of cinema.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northup, who spent 12 years in slavery while facing unspeakable cruelty. The film follows his ordeal and how he eventually regained his freedom.
Ejiofor is a commanding presence in the lead, perfectly conveying the emotional and physical abuse Northup endured. This is the tale of a man who was beaten down but managed to maintain hope and was eventually rewarded.
“12 Years a Slave” is full of strong supporting work as well.
Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o is outstanding as Patsey, a slave abused and raped by her owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).
Fassbender’s work as Epps, who quotes Scripture and truly believes it his God-given right to be a slave owner, could be the best performance in the film. Paul Dano and Sarah Paulson are strong in supporting roles.
Director Steve McQueen also deserves praise. The camera serves as a window into this time period, and the pictures we see aren’t always pretty.
This film will linger with audiences long after the final credits, a memorable experience that captures the era of slavery and the cruelty that slaves endured.
“12 Years a Slave” is rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality and is now available on DVD.