Non-Stop (2014)

3 Mar

non-stop01

Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

The premise for “Non-Stop” goes like this. A Federal air marshal on a non-stop flight receives menacing messages from an anonymous terrorist aboard the plane, threatening to kill a person on the plane every 20 minutes until his demands are met. It’s up to the marshal to figure out who’s behind this as time is running out.

Liam Neeson, still showing that even at age 61 he’s a badass action hero, stars as Bill Marks, an air marshal who is also a bitter alcoholic whose life is falling downhill. He boards a transatlantic flight to London. Midway through the flight, he receives e-mails from an anonymous messenger on a secure system. His demands are millions of dollars into a bank account given to him. Until he gets the money, he will kill one person on the plane every 20 minutes. While searching for the terrorist on the plane and trying to figure what to do next, he enlists the help of head flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and a trustful passenger named Jen (Julianne Moore). But things go from bad to worse as Marks is labeled as the cause of the disturbance, as it turns out the bank account is in his name. And the plot thickens…

This is a neat idea for a thriller; you could say it’s something you would have liked to see Alfred Hitchcock try to create into a tense thriller. And for the first hour or so of “Non-Stop,” directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, it is a tense, nail-biting thriller that keeps you on edge and guessing. The tension keeps rising as the mystery develops and the body count rises. It’s handled in a plausible way, given its subject material.

But once the film gets to its final act, that’s when things start to go downhill. When the action has to take over, it makes the film into what looks like a generic action-thriller, and it just gets too preposterous. The action becomes too absurd; clichés are thrown in once the passengers get involved; and without giving anything away, there’s a right-wing element that may be seen as bad taste from some people, and I don’t think it’s just me. I could tell what they were trying to do, but was it something that was needed?

If this film had eased up on the action a bit and had a bit of a rewrite, “Non-Stop” would probably have more lasting power as an edgy nail-biter. If Collet-Serra and his team of screenwriters had just focused more on the paranoia of being trapped on the plane where almost everyone is either frightened, angry, or possibly a suspect, this film would have been great. As it is, I could say it’s forgettable entertainment. But the thing about that is, to me, the first hour is too well-done to be considered forgettable. In that respect, I suppose I could give “Non-Stop” a marginal recommendation, mainly because through it all, Liam Neeson manages to keep everything interesting. But I can only give it a mixed review, because it could’ve been a lot more riveting if only it stayed riveting.

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