Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stool, Linus Roache, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong’o
Plot: Bill Marks (Neeson) is an air marshal who begins getting threatening text messages from one of the passengers. Unless 150 million is wired into the given account, a passenger will die every 20 minutes.
Non-Stop has been getting a lot of bad press. Empire started the downslide in ratings, giving it a mere one star review, calling it ‘dull. I had my expectations very low, when I went to see it and, as it turned out, Non-Stop is actually a decent, exciting thriller.
It’s an interesting concept. This thriller is set entirely in an airplane, and as the characters keep reminding us, it is interesting to see how the killer can get away with murdering all of these people, in such a small, enclosed space. Liam Neeson’s Bill Marks seems to always have the plane covered, intent on finding out who is getting away with all of these killings, yet somehow a death always has a way of happening. While Empire is slightly right in suggesting that the ‘who’ of this plot is infuriatingly unguessable, the fun is in the ‘how’. The killer’s web of mystery is cleverly spun and each death has a way of working out in the worst possible way for our protagonists. Sometimes, it is painfully predictable that Bill Marks is blundering right into the bad guy’s hands, but that makes it all the more fun. As we begin to connect the dots faster than Liam Neeson does, we end up with our hands in our mouth, both impressed and appalled at the brilliance of the antagonist.
Empire also over-looked an important detail in their review. If the thriller elements don’t really work for you, Jaume Collet-Serra has a back-up plan. Most of these kind of movies, like Serra’s earlier attempt, Unknown, can be made or broken by the end twist. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and in films, like this, it can split the viewers right down the middle. Personally, I thought it wasn’t terrible, but again, the end result is a little too unpredictable, like learning the solution to a Maths problem and still not totally understanding the equation. Therefore, if you brush the mystery aside, there is the social elements to the film. As it begins to look like Bill Marks could be the hijacker here, the passengers begin to take matters into their own hands. Corey Stoll’s character is a cop that you could easily imagine being a parallel universe of John McClane in the beginning of the original Die Hard. In his eyes, this Air Marshall is going rogue and he believes that he is the only hope for the passengers, making him no different from Liam Neeson himself. The 9/11 bombings are touched upon and you realise that it is impossible to hate the passengers getting in Liam Neeson’s way, because you would hope you have the courage to act as they do, if you were in a similar situation. I thought this was the brilliance of the story that lifts ‘Non-Stop’ above the usual ‘whodunnit’ thriller you find in a supermarket bargain bucket.
I do understand the flaws of this film, as they are very typical of this genre. Characters never have the time to develop. We never get a sense of who anyone is, other than being terrified passengers. Take the air hostess, played by OSCAR-winner Lupita Nyong’o; it is almost a crime not to be using such an amazing actress. I like that we have an endless list of potential suspects (the only one we can safely rule out is the Middle-Eastern doctor, because that is far too racist a twist for Hollywood), but it means that there are too many characters to focus on. I want to see more of the little girl on her own during the flight, but she only really comes into play at the end. A relationship is suggested between Marks and air hostess, Nancy, but it is never taken further than occasional knowing glances. The only person who rises above it is Julianne Moore, who injects personality into every line, proving that she is the veteran actor here. The only other person worth mentioning is, of course, Liam Neeson. He plays it straight, as we expect from his other ventures into American action flicks, but he is given a late chance to shine, when he appeals to the passengers, conveying desperation and depression. In many ways, he saves this movie, when you think that it could have been handed to a far worse actor. Therefore, despite some dreadful reviews, I still think this is a decent thriller. Far better than Taken, at any rate.
Final Verdict: Non-Stop, while probably best enjoyed as a Friday night DVD rental, still delivers suspense, thrills and its fair share of enjoyment.