Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong’o
(PG-13, 106 min.)
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”–Winston Churchill
Neeson teams up with Jaume Collet-Serra, the same Spanish film director who gave us a great ride in 2011’s Unknown (Berlin Scalloped Potatoes), a dizzy cocktail of confusion, panic, and paranoia reminiscent of the grand master Alfred Hitchcock, yet the sparks here don’t quite fly even at 40,000 feet.
Neeson is fine as Bill Marks, the alcoholic air marshal trying to hold it together one flight at a time. As recently reported, the loss of his beloved wife, Natasha Richardson in 2009 still haunts the melancholy Irishman, so Neesom's haunted eyes may reflect more than good acting. He gives a depth to a rather rote part, and his impassioned speech to passengers during the chaos on board reminds us the inner power Liam Neeson summoned almost 20 years ago for his Oscar nominated Schindler’s List performance.
And how refreshing for those of us of a certain age to see our contemporaries demonstrate the physical chops to shine in action rolls, Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood doing it all without any steroid fueled pectorals.
We’ve got a star-studded cast as well. Maybe it’s the somewhat mediocre script that makes 3 time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore just one more almost annoying busybody passenger who may or may not be up to no good.
And with her uneventful turn as an air stewardess, we’d never suspect Lupita Nyong’o to have the acting talent she demonstrated to win her 2013 Best Supporting Actress award. But that’s not her fault; she hardly gets to say more than “Coffee or tea?” in what is little more than cameo performance.
I can’t be as generous with the other stewardess, the babe of Downton Abbey, Michelle Docker, whose luminous Lady Mary from the Masterpiece Theater mega-hit fails to light up the big screen. Even with a modicum of screen time, it’s as though without her jewels and title, Lady Mary is a pale and diminished version of herself.
Even though it starts out to be just another airplane flick following a tradition started in in 1970 with Airport, “… an over-produced (film) with a cast of stars as long as a jet runway,” Non-Stop has a powerfully taunt intensity.
The plots twists and machinations of the anonymous hijacker/terrorist, who appears only as digital texts on Neeson’s encrypted phone, make us forget the formulaic beginning and unrealistic details, such as having an air marshal seated in first class.
There is certainly action here – this is, after all, another February release starring Liam Neeson – but Different Drummer prefers the slow tension of 2005’s Flight Plan(German Apple Pancakes) where veteran Oscar winner Jodie Foster navigates us through the stark ethers at 37,000 feet to an unanticipated landing, one filled with bumps and jolts, but nonetheless, grounded in reality.
I also remember a favorite episode from NCIS with a similar plot featuring Tony and Ziva, replete with another anonymous killer taking out passengers with lethal leisure. It was lighter in tone and ran under an hour, yet it did not rely on the hurried and hodgepodge ending that keeps Non-Stop from the big leagues, as well as incurring the righteous indignation of some conservative patriots.
But, hey, you could do much worse than spending a few tense hours watching these airs above ground. Perhaps it is because Neeson’s past suspense releases have been unexpected treats that this generally respectable thriller comes up somewhat short.
This flight is headed for London, where the English are often scorned for their limited cuisine. Many might even complain, like the 18th century Frenchman, Voltaire, that England has forty-religions and only two sauces.
That was then; this is now. Different Drummer has scouted out many a delicious British food for her Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook. This scrumptious recipe for Roquefort-Baked Avocados comes from a chapter titled “A Pub-Crawl with Melrose Plant,” based on the fabulous American author Martha Grimes, who some think outdoes the grand dames of British mystery – Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy L. Sayers.
You’ll love the gourmet touches, like the black olives, the sunflower nuts, and especially, the bacon sautéed in dry red wine. That and much more are in the full book. Just click here for a sneak peak and free sample download.
Roquefort-Baked Avocados Recipe
4 large ripe avocados
Juice from one lime
8 ounces well-aged Roquefort Cheese
8 to 10 slices thick-cut bacon
4 tablespoons dry red wine
1 small can sliced black olives
1/4 cup sun flower nuts (optional)
Coarse-ground black pepper
Cut the avocados in half and remove pits. Squeeze lime juice onto avocados to keep from turning brown. Arrange on foil-lined baking dish.
Cook the bacon in the red wine until almost crisp. Drain on a paper towel, pat dry, and crumble into pieces. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, gently toss the Roquefort cheese and olives.Scoop the cheese mixture into the concave portion of each avocado. Sprinkle with the crumbled bacon and top with sunflower nuts.
Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) until avocados are warm and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Or microwave at 50% power for 3 minutes.