New Review: Non-Stop (2014)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong'o, Nate Parker, Linus Roache, Omar Metwally, Corey Stoll, Jason Butler Harner
The first time we see Liam Neeson in Non-Stop, he's sitting in his car at an airport parking lot, pouring whiskey into his coffee, and stirring it with a toothbrush. Later, when a seemingly random bystander tries to shoot the breeze with him outside the airport terminal, he's seems to be too much in a haze to respond to the man. His Bill Marks is a troubled soul, for reasons that will be revealed later in the film (but not in this review), and when we learn that he's also a federal air marshal fixing to go to work on a non-stop flight from New York to London, I started to feel a little uneasy. He just doesn't seem like the sort of man you'd want protecting you on a ten hour flight.
For the first twenty minutes of the movie, I was wondering if the guy could even be trusted at all. I had, for reasons I don't even understand, this idea in my head that the movie was going to reveal that Bill was, in fact, the mastermind behind everything that happened on the plane, and that was going to be the big twist. Yes, I know how stupid that sounds, and I did eventually dismiss it all together. The mystery at the core of Non-Stop is not quite as insulting as that. The motivation behind the crime is forced in the way it tries to crowbar some real world issues into what is otherwise a B-movie action thriller, but prior to the big reveal, the movie does keep you guessing and engaged.
The plot kicks into gear when, in mid-flight, Marks receives a text message on what is suppose to be a secure network, demanding a ransom of $150 million dollars. If Marks doesn't meet the demands, someone on the plane will be killed every twenty minutes. Every single person on that plane is a suspect, including the friendly Jennifer Summers (a solid Julianne Moore), who sits next to Bill on the plane; fellow air marshal Jack Hammond (Anson Mount); flight attendants Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Gwen (Lupita Nyong'o); Muslim doctor Fahim Nasir (Omar Metwally); and even a shady looking bald guy (Corey Stoll) who turns out to be a cop (A dirty cop?).
To say any more about the plot would be unfair. One of the pleasures of the film is that you're never really sure who's behind it all. Nor are you sure how they're suppose to kill someone on a crowded plane every twenty minutes without drawing attention to themselves. They do, and once it's revealed how they did it, you can't help but feel silly for not picking up on it sooner.
The movie is directed by the not untalented Jaume Collet-Serra, whose resume consists of some passable time wasters (House of Wax, Unknown (which also starred Liam Neeson)) as well as one utterly contemptible piece of junk (Orphan). Non-Stop is easily his best work as a filmmaker. It's stylish, suspenseful, and features a couple of riveting action set-pieces (the scene where Marks engages in a fist fist inside a cramped lavatory is pretty terrific). There are also things he does with the camera that would have made Hitchcock proud. The best moment is a single shot sequence that moves up and down the aisles (and even outside of the plane itself), and it's really quite spectacular to watch.
The real reason to see this movie is, of course, Liam Neeson. Scruffy, world-weary, and likable in spite of his flaws (he drinks and smokes while on the job, he can be pretty rude, etc), Neeson certainly performs the many fight scenes and big stunts as well as he did in movies like Taken and The Grey, but he's also given some surprisingly touching scenes to play, like the confessional monologue he delivers to the passengers toward the end of the film. The acting is pretty strong across the board, so much so that no matter how absurd the proceedings get (and they do; consider the scene where Marks saves a little girl during a particular moment by unbuckling her seat belt), the movie never loses our interest.
We do, however, have to question the big revelation concocted by screenwriters John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle. Some might, understandably, consider it tasteless the way the movie exploits serious and discussion-worthy issues the way that it does. It does feel dishonest and manipulative, and I have to admit, it kind of hit me wrong. But that's only after the film has ended and I had time to think about it. While it's playing, the movie is surprisingly good.
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other thoughts on Non-Stop (2014)! :D
- Mark Reviews Movies: NON-STOP (2014)
- Dustin Putman's Review: Non-Stop (2014)
Non-Stop (2014) - 2/4 Stars - Diverts off and on as tension-laden studio popcorn fare, then goes all dopey with a conclusion of shrug-worthy revelations and a delusional case of grandeur.
- Combustible Celluloid Review - Non-Stop (2014), John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Engle, Jaume C
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