In "Non-Stop," those skills would be those of a U.S. air marshal, one of the guys entrusted with keeping airline flights free from hijackings. His Bill Marks is a drinker and a smoker, a sad-eyed man who doesn't like to fly but still does this dangerous job for a living — after he's had a toot in the parking lot, a snort in the bar or what not.
And Neeson makes us believe in this guy, first frame to last.
"Non-Stop" is a solid, workmanlike action picture that builds slowly, bends over backward to over-explain itself and its villain, and delivers a lulu of an ending.
Somebody is threatening the 150 passengers and crew on Marks' cellphone, and framing Marks with the dirty work to his superiors back on the ground. In the wee hours of this red eye from New York to London, that first text arrives on his "secure" phone.
"In exactly 20 minutes, I'm going to kill someone on this plane."
Marks may have had a nip from a bottle before boarding, but he's sharp enough to observe and profile every face on the plane — the hostile bald guy, the young black man in the sunglasses and hoodie, the Muslim, this nervous man or that too-friendly woman.
Julianne Moore plays a helpful passenger sitting next to him. Michelle Dockery (of "Downton Abbey") is the flight attendant who trusts him with their lives. Linus Roache is the pilot who's willing to hear Marks out.
They all give him the benefit of the doubt, up to a point. The script here goes to some pains to make Marks out as a possible suspect, something the viewer never buys into.
Marks struggles to get a handle on things, to keep the passengers in the dark. But as he rousts this one and manhandles that one, they get suspicious. There are New Yorkers on board.
"Does this scenario seem familiar?" they start to ask one another. They're talking 9/11. Or maybe Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians." They don't say.