This week's top pick is a film that was quite a surprise for me - "Non-Stop". The latest in a series of tough guy roles for Liam Neeson, many would point to this as simply another paycheck role in a disposable movie. Honestly, these assumptions are probably correct. For me though, there was something fundamentally enjoyable about this conventional cash cow.
Over the years, it seems I've developed an affinity for films and TV series involving disaster-struck planes as crucial plot element ("Lost", "Flight", "Flightplan" etc.). It's a rather strange situation, especially considering the fact that I travel often. Somehow, I find a sense of "comfort" in these scenarios, especially those where the flight dominates the plot. There's just something about the dramatic tension of those claustrophobic confines that I always respond to. Likewise, I get a cathartic thrill out of the inevitable heroic landing. At the basic level then, "Non-Stop" was bound to give me some satisfaction.
Still, there were many ways that "Non-Stop" could have gone wrong. The story is your classic whodunit mystery where one man must find the perpetrator before it's too late. In this instance that man is Liam Neeson, who plays an air marshal aboard a hijacked transatlantic flight. As expected, it all hinges on an exorbitant ransom (this time it's $150 million) that the criminal demands for rather silly reasons.
Now if you're expecting something smarter from the script then you're likely to be disappointed. However, if you can fully suspend your disbelief you'll likely find this to be an entertaining ride. The biggest draw is a compelling cast featuring talented actors like Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong'o (a hilariously tiny role) and of course, our resident badass Liam Neeson. They all pull their weight by keeping you engaged with the characters and their plight.
The film is also well-paced, with hardly a dull moment as Neeson tries to solve the mystery. The script behind this mystery may not be extraordinary, but there's something gratifying about its lack of ambition. Sometimes a film's ability to simply avoid being "bad" (rather than strive for greatness) can make for some of the most rewarding experiences. A number of this year's summer movies seem to be succeeding largely because of this reason ("Edge of Tomorrow" for example) and I think the same applies to this earlier release.
Like many other films of its ilk, "Non-Stop" will undoubtedly leave you scratching your head at the motivations behind the climactic reveal. What separates it from those countless other failures however, is its ability to keep you constantly entertained so those ridiculous plot twists don't matter. Really, with Liam Neeson in top form, what's there to complain about?