Tired of airport pat-downs? They're nothing compared to the severe smackdowns administered by troubled air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) as he slams his way through the popcorn thriller "Non-Stop" (Universal).
Though Marks' rough ways -- together with a bit of risque humor -- set this turbulent trip off limits for kids, most grownups will likely handle the bumps along the way without much difficulty.
Haunted by a family tragedy, Marks has a drinking problem -- as well as an explosive temper -- and is barely holding on to his job when he's assigned to protect a typical overnight flight from New York to London. All sense of routine goes by the wayside, however, when an anonymous passenger sends Marks a text threatening to kill one of his fellow travelers every 20 minutes until a hefty payout is wired into his bank account.
Marks swings into action, but he's bewildered to find that his unknown adversary is making it appear as though Marks himself is the one doing the killing. That account, for instance, turns out to be in the marshal's name.
Marks enlists the help of sympathetic newfound acquaintance Jen Summers (Julianne Moore). Seated next to each other, the two have been chatting in a mildly flirtatious way. He also draws on the aid of veteran stewardess and longtime friend Nancy (Michelle Dockery).
But mutual mistrust -- Just who is Jen? How well does Nancy really know Marks? -- hampers the trio's efforts to identify and stop the perpetrator.
The rapid pace and frequent plot twists of director Jaume Collet-Serra's thriller divert attention from its improbabilities. As with Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express," genuine suspense pervades the proceedings because every single person onboard is a potential suspect. Marks, however, is no Hercule Poirot; he relies far more on his big white knuckles than his little gray cells.
Without incurring the guilt of spoilers, the solution to it all can be said to involve a surprisingly laudable goal pursued in a deeply immoral -- and thoroughly crackpot -- manner. So to the degree that this jump across the puddle carries any ethical cargo, it's the familiar maxim that good ends do not justify sinful -- much less homicidal -- means.
The film contains considerable harsh but mostly bloodless violence, brief nongraphic sexual activity between incidental characters, some adult references, numerous uses of profanity, at least one instance of the F-word as well as several crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.