Liam Neeson's undercover air marshal might start out in this sort-of hijack thriller with a seat in first class. But enjoyably tense as it begins, it's also a movie that suffers a kind of perpetual downgrade as it progresses, going from business to economy as its thrills get cheaper and nastier.
And though Neeson's character would seem to be flying light - gun, badge, cigarettes, scotch miniatures - he's sure carrying an excess amount of personal baggage. There's the booze, the apparent fear of take-offs and landings, and mention of a daughter, which undoubtedly factors into his glum countenance.
Clearly, he's a man who may not be up to the job when someone starts texting him that a passenger will die on the trans-Atlantic flight every 20 minutes unless a $150 million ransom is paid. Or he just might be the man in the middle for a reason - and Non-Stop is at its best in its first half when it's at least maintaining its guessing game, with Neeson roping in the help of fellow passenger Julianne Moore and air hostesses Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey and Lupita Nyong'o of 12 Years a Slave.
Yes, there are pilots.
No, they don't get a lot of say.
Which is fitting, because after a fairly intriguing first half, the formulaic autopilot is engaged and Neeson is left to do regular laps of the cabin with occasional pauses to thump passengers who may or who may not be the cause of his problems.
It all might sound bit Fly Hard and director Collet-Serra does make good use of the claustrophobic cabin confines, even if he cheats on the in-flight physics later on.
But his tech-Hitchcock whodunnit doesn't sustain, and along the way another question arises: Who really would fly an airline called "Aqualantic"? With a mineral-watery name like that, surely you just know it's going to end up in the drink.
Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong'o
M (violence and offensive language)
Another solid Neeson thriller-cum-advert against cellphone use on planes