Non-Stop – 2014

Director Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Jason Butler Harner, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong’o, Linus Roache, Corey Stroll
Screenplay John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Engle

Non-Stop is the kind of movie that is full of surprises.  It has the burden of a premise that we’ve seen many times before, most notably in Passenger 57, Executive Decision, Snakes on a PlaneAir Force One and Flight Plan.  This is better than any film of its kind that did not star Harrison Ford.  It has elements of other movies we’ve seen in the past, but it rises above the rest due to the plethora of characters that rise out of the passenger and crew manifest.  The script is winning and the actors are willing to play it for all it’s worth.

Liam Neeson is, Bill Marks,  a burned out alcoholic Air Marshall who receives a series of texts that the flight he is on is in danger and people will start being killed every 20 minutes.  This information sets him into motion towards figuring out who got access to his secured line and whether the threat is real.  After 20 minutes, he finds out. Soon though, the tide of information exposes the possibility that he is the main suspect.

It’s here that the film takes carefully plotted steps.  We get to see everything from Bill’s perspective, but what occurs could be read in multiple ways.  The Captain (Roache) and a Stewardess (Dockery) get bits of information, start trying to work with him, but also start to hedge their bets, wondering if their doubts are justified. Passengers (Moore, Stroll and others) also attempt to work through the information they get from Bill, and react according to their own beliefs.  The sequence walks a very tight line, and succeeds, for the most part.

Things really start to pick up in the last 1/4 of the story, as people make their moves and counter moves.  All along, we see Bill battling with their perceptions versus the reality of the situation as he sees it.  That there is an abundance of clues only serves to muddy the water and it adds to the excitement as well.  The best part of the film is that people don’t stubbornly insist on doing the stupidest thing possible at all times.  Some of their moves, yeah, you can set a clock to them.  It’s what they do when the information changes (other than the big reveal) that makes Non-Stop stand out.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie could have gone either way.  The material is not even close to original.  The presentation is pretty unique, though.

There was some political backlash to the film as it relates to 9/11.  For me, the tie in brings one to the mind of United 93, which is a great film qualifying more as a documentary than an action film.  Is Non-Stop ever in bad taste?  I will leave this to survivors to evaluate.  My guess is that the feelings will be as varied as the people who feel them.

Liam Neeson has a limited range, and like all actors of his particular skill, he depends solely on the support that he gets.  This is the best film he’s been in during the post-Taken stage.  Producer Joel Silver pulled out all the stops, and helped create a movie with a familiar feel that does not leave a bad residue on your brain. If Neeson is smart, he will stay with Silver for a while, adding limited doses of Luc Besson.  That means no Taken 3, please.

But who am I kidding?  That one’s all ready for distribution.

(**** out of *****)

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