NON-STOP (2014) - A Review
I suppose people go to the movies for all sorts of reasons. This weekend, my wife and I wanted to go to see a movie to celebrate living in a town with three different multi-screen theaters. The town we previously lived in will be closing their only theater this weekend, and we are so grateful to be in a place where we have cinema options.
And that is how we wound up on a plane with Liam Neeson today. Non-Stop was the only new movie in town that was of much interest to either of us, and so we were off to fly the not-so-friendly skies.
The set-up is pretty straightforward here: Neeson is flight marshal Bill Marks, onboard a transatlantic flight. Soon after the plane lifts off, he starts getting threatening text messages on the airline's closed network. The mystery texter promises that a passenger on the plane will die every 20 minutes until $150 million is wired to a bank account - an account that is in Marks' name. Complications - and a death every 20 minutes - ensue.
This is a popcorn movie in the best sense. Given that Marks doesn't know who is sending the texts, the film starts right in with introducing his fellow passengers in the most suspicious of ways. From the get-go, everyone seems at least potentially a little questionable, both to the audience and to Marks, and the filmmakers manage to keep both the plane and the mystery up in the air until the end. Neeson, a hulking man and a capable actor, is very good as the man-with-a-past Marks who is in even more of a jam than Keanu Reeves was in Speed (1994) - at least he wasn't 20,000 feet in the air.
Of the reviews I've read of this film, almost all have said that when the identity and motives of the texter is revealed it's unbelievable and somehow not up to snuff. I disagree. Without going into who it is, or why they're doing it, my wife and I found it to be all too plausible. In any case, the reveal comes very near the end, so even if you found it a buzz killer, well, the movie is almost over anyway. (The closest thing to this film is 2005's Red Eye, which in my opinion very much does fall apart in its last quarter. Thus, Non-Stop emerges the better movie-you'll-never-ever-ever-see-on-a-plane.)
I also appreciated that, from my perspective, most of this film was pretty plausible, and that there were no painful or embarrassing "make my day" lines in the script. (There are, however, a few maudlin moments to give us the emotional backstory for Bill Marks.) Another thing of note, especially for an American action film, is the real lack of gunplay here. Yes, Neeson's character has a gun, but being that most of the movie is spent in a pressurized airplane at 20,000 feet, there would be real consequences for being fast and loose with his handgun. By the time there is some gunfire, near the very end of the film, there are already other, bigger problems for everyone onboard to deal with.
Some might say that Neeson, Julianne Moore, and current Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o are slumming, but I see nothing wrong with a well done, satisfying and not insultingly stupid thriller. Good action films are a rare breed these days, and this is a good one. That's nothing to be ashamed of in my book.