A handful of interviews that surrounded the release of West Side Story boasted that it was the first-time director Steven Spielberg had handled a musical. That may be true, but why is that such a feat? Spielberg is a journeyman director, responsible for great popcorn movies and sincerely moving pieces that litter a strong filmography. But those days are over, and it now appears he has a mental checklist of genres and topics he hopes to cover and coat with that likeable charm that has been on the brink since Ready Player One. His adaptation and subsequent remodelling of West Side Story has little ground to gain on an original that wasn’t all that exciting anyway.
As Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) sits in his car in the opening moments of Non-Stop, we can see a keen checklist of tropes and cliché carried out. He does it for his daughter. We know little about him. It is raining. But the brooding angles and fixation on the tired and weary face of this once youthful action star are meaningful and tightly choreographed. There are moments of genuine, emotional understanding of this washed-up air marshal, and while the action genre is not ultimately known for its ability to relate engaged emotions to a thriller that finds itself thousands of feet in the air. But a thriller is only as strong as the action it dishes out along the way.