Non-Stop Hits Some Turbulence

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Alexandra Duncan, Features Editor
March 19, 2014
Filed under Arts and Entertainment

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying Bristish Airways, flight 10. Please fasten your seatbelts and prepare yourselves for our featured movie, “Non-Stop,” with almost two full hours of a very paranoid Liam Neeson, some typical action movie one-liners and an illogical ending with a twist.

“Non-Stop” opens with Liam Neeson as Bill Marks in his truck, pouring whiskey into a Styrofoam coffee cup with a shaking hand before heading off to work. Marks, a divorced air marshall with a drinking problem, is haunted by his troubled past and his even more troubling present.

Marks boards an International non-stop flight to London and soon receives a series of text messages from a fellow passenger who threatens to kill someone on board every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired into a certain bank account.

Eventually, Marks is accused of hijacking the plane and he frantically struggles to find the mysterious texter.

Panic, confusion and mostly paranoia on Marks’ part ensues, following a whole lot of yelling and grunting, gun-wielding, fighting in enclosed spaces and eventually a bomb concealed in a bag of cocaine.

“Non-stop” was directed by French director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Mindscape,” 2013) and written by John W. Richardson and Christopher Roach. Neeson is well cast for the role as an imposing Air Marshall struggling along blindly to protect innocent passengers aboard the plane.

Neeson acts alongside an impressive supporting cast that includes Julianne Moore (“Carrie,” 2013), Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”), Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”), Scoot McNairy and Lupita Nyong’o ( both from “12 Years a Slave,” 2013).

However, the talented cast is not used to the film’s advantage. Even recent Oscar-winner Nyong’o, who plays a flight attendant in the film, has at most, five lines that lack originality.

The most important factor that moves the plot along is the text messages between the mysterious villain and Marks. These messages appeared on screen large, brightly colored and in the form of text bubbles that seemed to take up space the director couldn’t fill with actual content. Precious screen time is wasted as Marks focused all attention on his outdated flip phone.

Much of the film’s dialogue was weak in structure and at times makes Neeson’s character seem unbelievable and ridiculous. It is not until the big climax that we discover the mastermind behind the hijacking/embezzlement scheme that we hear some dialogue with actual substance.

Writers Roach and Richardson saved the golden lines for McNairy’s character when he says, “You can’t change the world with words unless you write them in the evening news with blood.”

The one instance of comic relief in which Neeson’s character promises free airfare for a year to coax passengers to comply with his demands, is a dry and half effort at humor.

Collet-Serra manipulates the suspense in the film expertly. Scenes were highlighted vividly and orchestrated by the highs and lows of the eerie sounds of the film score. Not a moment dragged on in this wonderfully crafted and suspenseful movie. This is Collet-Serra’s second time working with Neeson since the film “Unknown” in 2011.

An action scene in which Neeson’s character, whose large figure takes down a full grown man within the miniscule confines of a plane’s lavatory elevate the viewer higher and higher into disbelief. There are too many ridiculous action scenes in the film verging on stupidity.

The ending that loomed toward predictability went for a turn in the completely opposite direction for the better with an enjoyable twist that broke through “Non-stop’s” seemingly apparent spiral downward. However, the few gaping plot holes the director left for the audience were alarming. It is unclear whether Collet-Serra intended to keep those there or if he thought he could slip them past the viewers.

“Non-Stop” runs for 106 minutes and is PG-13.

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