IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 113 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
William Marks is a depressed, alcoholic federal air marshal who’s tasked to a New York to London flight. Shortly after take-off he begins receiving threatening text messages from a passenger. The person is threatening to kill another passenger every twenty minutes until $150 million is transferred to an offshore bank account within that time. Things escalate rapidly when the mystery passenger makes good on his initial threat and begins making even more serious ones. Marks finds himself in a race against time to locate the person responsible and save everyone else on-board, but all clues seem to point back to Bill himself, casting suspicion on the very individual we so easily assume to be the one who saves the day…..
It wasn’t very long ago that Liam Neeson announced that he wasn’t going to do any more action films, but lo and behold, here we have Non-Stop, with Taken 3 now seeming to be on the cards too despite Neeson saying there wasn’t anywhere else to go with the character of Bryan Mills. Actually Non-Stop isn’t really an action movie, though of course Liam plays the same dour tough guy he has always done of late, and it’s pretty much you would expect from ‘Liam Neeson on a plane’. It reunites Neeson with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra, and, despite having a much more restricted setting, is probably closest to that film out of Neeson’s movies. It’s full of tension and mystery and keeps you guessing, while there certainly are bursts of action in what is mostly a nail-biting suspenser. It doesn’t really rise above what you would expect, and gets extremely silly, but I only started to think about the many plot holes after I’d exited the cinema, a good thing. The 113 min running time probably seems a little excessive, but the film remains taut throughout.
We are introduced to Neeson’s William Marks tipping brandy into a cup of coffee in his car and stirring it with his toothbrush. He’s a man on the edge, a close cousin to Flight’s Whip Whitaker. The next scene is very well done as a clearly intoxicated Bill scans the airport waiting lounge he is in for potentially dangerous passengers, his first gaze, and ours, alighting on somebody who’s obviously a Muslim. The camera is often out of focus and the scene largely comprised of close-ups, something which is overdone in films at the moment, but which works here, giving us an impression of Bill’s state. When the plane takes off [Bill being, rather laughably, an air marshal who’s afraid of take-offs and landings], it’s not long before Bill starts receiving nasty text messages from somebody else in the plane. He thinks he finds the person who is demanding money and threatening to kill other passengers, and this person is certainly revealed to be a criminal, but after killing him in a fight, the messages continue. A film like this is best enjoyed the less you know of the plot, so I won’t reveal much more, but suffice to say that there are many red herrings, the possibility that damaged Bill might be the culprit, and the employment of as many cliched ingredients you would expect to find in a thriller set in an aeroplane as possible.
There are some ridiculous things in Non-Stop, such as someone being able to take a briefcase full of cocaine past security onto a plane, something which Bill would surely have spotted. There’s a little too much of the texting, though it’s quite redolent of the way many of us are constantly on our phones I suppose. In any case, the film is quite gripping, despite the mostly stereotypical passengers, and just about manages to make one not think of Airplane. It only really loses it towards the end with some very contrived occurrences and some really bad CGI which really stuck out, not to mention a thoroughly ridiculous motivation for the villain which smacks of far-left fascism. If Hollywood filmmakers dare shove extremist right-wing views on us, they are heavily criticised, but the majority keep throwing ultra-liberal messages at the viewer and it’s getting tiresome [for the record, I consider myself ‘centre’, so I’m not trying to get unnecessarily political]. Also irritating is the shakycam that is employed. The close-up, wobbly fight scenes [and despite what you may have heard there are some in the movie] are almost unwatchable and as usual with this kind of thing gave me sore eyes. When will filmmakers and cinematographers go back to shooting action properly, you know, so you can see it properly? The odd thing about Non-Stop is that its photography, though credited to one Flavio Labiano, sometimes looks like the work of two people, one of them able to give us long graceful tracking shots down the plane.
Neeson has a few moments where he gets to show how good an actor he can be, like an admittedly contrived bit where he tells the other passengers that he is “a bad person”. Mostly he’s just his usual grim, determined self, albeit given a few scenes with a cute little girl to show his sweet side. He’s also allowed to be a real pain at times – even if you don’t think he might be the villain, you’ll sympathise with others as he keeps everyone awake, moves everyone to one section, ties up and even virtually attacks people. Julianne Moore again shows that she can’t give a poor performance even when given a thin character to play and the rest of the cast fare well. Non-Stop is the sort of film that probably wouldn’t work very well a second time round and parts of the story are still falling apart in my brain even as I write this review, but it’s a solid evening out at the pictures and sometimes plays quite cleverly on our post 9/11 fears, even it weakens considerably towards the end.