Unfriendly persuasion: ‘The things you have to do these days to get people to play a simple game. Now Simon Says, rub your tummy with your left hand.’
The cramped quarters of an airplane can’t stop big man Liam Neeson from delivering some sky-high thrills in
EVEN those of us who are not claustrophobic get a little anxious when boarding a plane. Besides the fact that a huge hunk of metal taking to the skies is just not natural, the number of things that could go wrong is just as high as the number of things that could go right.
Now imagine getting stuck on a long-haul flight with 150 strangers, and one of them is threatening to kill everyone else unless he or she is paid a large sum of money. An unpleasant journey that has just been made even more unpleasant makes up the premise of Non-Stop, an action-packed feature directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) and headlined by Liam Neeson.
In the thriller, Neeson plays Bill Marks, a burned-out veteran working as a US Air Marshal who, ironically, doesn’t like to fly. But when Bill learns of a threat to the passengers and the crew, he gets to work although the path to the truth is twisted.
In an interview transcript provided by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Malaysia, Neeson shared about the plot: “I don’t want to give too much away – but there’s somebody on the flight who’s out to prove something and everyone on board becomes a suspect. My character keeps getting texts on his special telephone saying that unless a vast sum of money is paid into an unnamed account, someone on board is going to die every 20 minutes, which sure enough, they do. There are definitely going to be a few thrills and spills before the closing credits.”
As with his previous action films (Taken, Taken 2 and Unknown), the audience knows Neeson’s character is going to be a guy who can take a beating while dishing out some of his own to the baddies. However, this is the first time we see his character placed in a really tight situation – you know, literally – and the Irish actor is a very tall man (Neeson stands at 1.93m).
“Well, 99% of it is shot on board the plane itself,” said Neeson. “We’ve had a couple of days on location at JFK airport, but the rest of the action takes place in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a plane that’s flying at 12,000 metres (40,000ft) and we’ve had a brilliant replica of the inside of the aircraft built in a New York studio to work in.
“Jaume has had to be very creative about the way that he’s filming. In one particular sequence, we’ve filmed 10 pages of dialogue in one big take where the camera follows me around, going from suspect to suspect. It was pretty intense but there was a wonderful feeling of achievement at the end of it.”
One of the outstanding scenes in Non-Stop involves Neeson fighting with another man in the the airplane’s bathroom! “To add to the problem, the other guy was quite big too,” he said with a laugh.
“At one point, I had to bash up against a mirror, which shatters during the fight. You’re not aware of being hurt at the time because the adrenaline kicks in. But you do see a bruise or two later on and think, ‘How did I get that?’
“But it’s all good fun and there are great stunt guys for the really difficult stuff. Mind you, there are times when you’re being dragged across the floor, or during a fight scene with a bunch of the passengers who attack me at one point because they think I’m the hijacker, and you do think, ‘Am I getting a little bit too old for this?’ ”
Not at all, Mr Neeson. At 61, Neeson – lined face, grizzled features and all – proves he is a reliable action hero, even when the material is stretched a little thin. One of the reasons for this is because he always lends an air of credibility to his character, when he is not in full action mode.
The actor worked with the director to develop the character beyond than what was in the script. “We tried to make him a lot more three-dimensional than the usual action character. We layered on all kinds of small things so that he became a much more fleshed out character between the first reading of the script and now.”
Also starring in the film are Julianne Moore who plays a chatty passenger sitting next to Marks, Michelle Dockery (of Downton Abbey) as the flight attendant who trusts him with their lives, and Linus Roache as the pilot.
Non-Stop is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.