SALT LAKE CITY — There is palpable tension and even a discordant note in every scene of the new film “Non-Stop.”
This is clearly Liam Neeson’s movie, and he is riveting as Bill Marks, a federal air marshal, who boards a transatlantic flight only to start receiving text messages from someone onboard demanding $150 million. Along with the demand is the promise to kill someone every 20 minutes if the demand isn’t met.
Wow, the hook is set and I’m buckled in for the ride.
As the taunting texts appear, more and more is revealed about the air marshal himself. It is obvious that Bill Marks is a troubled man. We’ve seen him bolstering himself with a stiff drink in his car as he heads for the terminal. We’ve witnessed his edginess as he goes through the lines and the process of boarding. We discover he hates to fly.
As the plane lifts off, his seat-mate Jen (Julianne Moore) notes his anxiety and tries to distract him with small talk and a gentle touch. He is so uptight that he sneaks off to the restroom, duct tapes the smoke detector and relished a few drags on a cigarette — a clear violation of federal law. This is when the first text appears.
Who is sending the messages?
I need to be very careful from this point on because I don’t want anything to be a spoiler. Let me just say that as the air marshal starts to look at everyone on the flight as a suspect, and people indeed do start to die, his personal demons undermine his credibility as a very complex conspiracy unfolds. Ground control starts to doubt him, the crew is suspicious and the passengers' fears reach a boiling point.
This is a first-rate thriller. Now, admittedly, you don’t want to overthink the plot and the plausibility. I mentioned earlier the complexity. Well, that might have been an understatement. But still, I was fully invested for each of the 106 minutes. I bought it all.
Neeson is fabulous delivering a very tough, yet kind and vulnerable character. Moore, as usual, is wonderful. Then, there’s a great supporting cast, almost all of whom in the course of the flight are suspects.
I acknowledge there are flaws, but it’s been a long time since I‘ve enjoyed a thriller this much. It’s rated PG-13, and I’m giving “Non-Stop” 3½ stars.