Few moments in cinema, in art even, will leave any lasting or memorable impact. Audiences have precious little storage in the brain to savour some of cinema’s greatest moments. The final fight in Aliens, the scale of Ben-Hur or Eddie Marsan screaming “I’m Frank Sidebottom” in a nasally comic voice in Filth all spring to mind. Marsan is, controversially, not Frank Sidebottom. Frank portrays him as Michael Fassbender, and even then, it is hard to believe that Sidebottom is a character that existed before and after Irvine Welsh’s novel of corrupt coppers and drink-addled Scotland. But he did, and here he is.
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.