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'Non-Stop' reviews: Liam Neeson saves the day, if not the movie

EntertainmentMoviesLiam NeesonUnknown (movie)Julianne MooreTaken 2 (movie)NPR

Liam Neeson continues his second act as an action hero of a certain age in the new thriller "Non-Stop," playing an air marshal trying to sniff out a killer at 30,000 feet. While many critics agree that Neeson is a capable butt-kicker who also brings a sense of gravitas to the proceedings, some assert that even he can't save "Non-Stop" from its own nonsense. In other words, the movie is more coach than first-class.

Among the positive reviews, The Times' Kenneth Turan writes, "Effectively directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously worked with Neeson in 'Unknown,' 'Non-Stop' is a crisp, efficient thriller that benefits greatly from the intangibles Neeson can be counted on to supply."

He adds, "Obviously, those seeking iron-clad plausibility should look elsewhere, but 'Non-Stop' does have its share of unanticipated sequences as well as Neeson's forcefulness. The actor throws himself wholeheartedly into the proceedings, prowling the aisles like a vengeful ghost, trying to keep his own demons in check while matching wits with an enemy who always seems to be one step ahead of him."

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The New York Times' Manohla Dargis agrees, writing, "'Non-Stop' doesn't make any sense, but that's expected, uninteresting and incidental to the pleasures of a slow-season Liam Neeson release as diverting as this one. A lot has been written about Mr. Neeson's surprising resurrection as an older action hero, which has sometimes been more rewarding theoretically than cinematically. Mr. Collet-Serra, however, makes good on that promise with a sure genre hand and real feeling for what Mr. Neeson brings to the screen at this stage of his career, including beauty etched by time and a still-imposing body that moves with the heaviness and grandeur of an old warrior raising his sword one last time."

The Associated Press' Jake Coyle, one the other hand, is less impressed with "Non-Stop." He writes, "As with so many high-concept films, it takes an awful lot of implausibility to keep the story airborne." Considering Neeson's recent string of thrillers, including "Taken," "Taken 2," "Unknown" and now "Non-Stop," Coyle says that "Neeson's presence — wounded, intelligent, honorable — is much sturdier than these films, which he elevates with ease. It's not an issue of him lowering himself to them, but of these films not raising themselves to Neeson."

Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice similarly laments that Neeson doesn't have better material to work with. "If only 'Non-Stop' were worthy of him," she writes. "Neeson does just about everything right in this terror-in-the-skies thriller." The problem, it would seem, is the overall preposterousness. "Nobody's demanding an action-thriller plot that's 100 percent plausible," Zacharek says. "But is 55 percent too much to ask?"

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Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger bemoans that "the action thrillers Neeson's been doing lately … have started to blur together, making it hard to tell them apart. Sometimes you wonder if he can tell them apart, or even tries to. Show up, throw some pulled punches, pick up a check."

"Non-Stop," though, "at least has the advantage of a good costar in Julianne Moore, and a cramped contained setting. And it flies along just fine for awhile, until it really starts to lose pressure in its third act."

Finally, NPR's Ian Buckwalter seems content to take Neeson's latest for what it's worth. He writes, "'Non-Stop' isn't a great film; it may not even be very good, and it's undeniably convoluted and silly. Yet I enjoyed nearly every moment. Sure, it's probably 15 minutes overlong, thanks to [an] excess of misdirection. Add to that the ham-handed politics … once the big reveal finally comes — the culmination of an undercurrent of blunt political commentary about air security and prejudicial assumptions about terrorism that runs through the entire film.

"But if it works, it's because Neeson and Collet-Serra, as well as Julianne Moore as Neeson's business-class seatmate Jen, are all fully aware of how ludicrous this exercise is."

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EntertainmentMoviesLiam NeesonUnknown (movie)Julianne MooreTaken 2 (movie)NPR
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