NON-STOP will have you thinking non-stop how truly thrilling a real master of suspense could have made it if still around to sit in the canvas chair.
While the film is set on board a transatlantic airliner and reliant on instant messaging in a post 9/11 world, the scenario of a group of shifty people in jeopardy in an enclosed space is just the same as Murder on the Orient Express 80 years ago.
The wrongly accused everyman fighting to clear his name is quintessential Hitchcock since he started in the 1920s.
Unfortunately, Non-Stop is strictly economy class compared to big Alfred, despite a promising first act which sees alcoholic air marshall Bill Marks (Neeson) exchange texts with a killer hiding among 150 passengers and crew bound for London.
Marks is ordered to deposit $150 million into an off-shore account, or a passenger gets a one-way ticket every 20 minutes.
The tension looks set to become palpable as Marks investigates who the hijacker is out of a plane load of increasingly hostile and suspicious one-dimensional characters. However, Collett-Serra lets his grip slip on the ratchet and genuine paranoia and suspense are sucked out the window in favour of gunplay and explosions.
Neeson reunites with the Spanish director of Unknown to continue the second phase of his career as a highly bankable action movie star. There is reliable fun to be had in watching the towering Northern Irishman calmly deploy his “very particular set of skills”, as he first demonstrated in Taken six years ago.
The real clipped wings in the piece, however, belong to Dockery, who is not given a chance to shine playing an anonymous cabin crew member in this, her Hollywood debut.
An almost unrecognisably cleaned up Anson Mount, who also has charisma to burn, in Hell on Wheels, is also wasted.
Fasten your safety belts for in-flight entertainment as factory produced as the food. Non-Stop never reaches the heights it could and brace for turbulence when the plot spirals out of credibility.
TWO POPCORNS OUT OF FIVE
Starring: Liam Neeson (Third Person), Julianne Moore (Carrie), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey).
Director: Jaume Collett-Serra (Unknown, Orphan).
Screening: Reading Cinemas Queenstown – visit www.readingcinemas.co.nz for times.