Movie Review: Non-Stop

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An alcoholic air marshal is lured into a killer’s game as he receive messages telling him that every 20 minutes, someone on the plane is going to be murdered.

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Jaume Collet-Serra, 2014

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is, basically, the worst air marshal ever. An alcoholic smoker with a tragic past, he wanders through the airport in a haze and spends the first part of his plane trip either scared of the take-off or ducking into the toilet for a stealthy smoke. He’s befriended by fellow passenger Jen (Julianne Moore) and denied a drink by flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery). Then things start to get interesting when he’s texted on the private air marshal network with a message that in 20 minutes, someone on the plane will get killed if a whole lot of money isn’t transferred to a bank account in that time. He gets drawn further into the plot as he discovers that he’s been targeted, trying desperately to outwit his opponent who is always at least two steps ahead of him.

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There are a lot of things to like about this solid action movie. The supporting cast is one of them, with great turns from Moore and Dockery and appearances from Omar Metwally and recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. Liam Neeson is doing his Neesony thing in the lead role, which is a very Neesony role (apparently he worked with director Jaume Collet-Serra in a movie called Unknown, an apt title, as I’ve never heard of it). The supporting cast could be given more to do, but they elevate cliched dialogue and maintain the admirable tension the movie ratchets up in its run-time. It’s stylistically impressive, too – I think Collet-Serra is a director with a decent career ahead of him based on his visual style, which is striking (and there’s clever use of on-screen text messages) and clever. He makes excellent use of the claustrophobic space on the plane where most of the action is set, and rightly never lets us out – we don’t see the face of the person Marks is talking to outside of the plane until the end of the film, and the bookends are the only times we’re not on the plane with the characters.

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She may have only been in the movie for five minutes, but any day I get to use a picture of Lupita Nyong’o on my blog is a good day.

For all that, it’s a fairly predictable movie. I picked the crime’s main perpetrator the moment I saw them, which made all the “whodunnit” fun on the plane slightly less engaging. There are moments set up for you to suspect everyone, long before Marks ever gets around to suspecting them. The film brings modern technology to the action plane thriller, a genre which comes around every so often because a plane is just a great place for an action movie to take place. It’s contained, it’s inherently tense because of the bonus danger of being in the air, and it’s fun. There are deeply unbelievable moments in this film, and you really have to assume Marks isn’t particularly bright, but the key element of fun is there. It’s never going to win any awards, but Non-Stop is a solid action flick from a promising director.

Non-Stop on IMDb

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