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Non-Stop – Movie Review

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Non-Stop – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

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Since Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock tried to stop a bomb on a bus in Speed, this formula of saving a crowd of people in a quickly moving transport has been a well-worn formula in Hollywood. In a movie in which no airline likely asked for product placement, Non-Stop uses an airplane as its setting and to exciting effect. Director Jaume Collet-Serra manages to keep the silliness mostly in check as he navigates Liam Neeson’s stressed air marshal from the cockpit to business class to the lavatory. While he tries to investigate who the terrorist is, the audience is solving it in their own heads, which puts us at his level and thus, increases the tension.

Liam Neeson plays the classic archetypical policeman character grown cynical and lonely in his later years and thrust into an insane situation, so this is hardly an original character and his development through Non-Stop goes through the expected beats. However, what makes him work is that Neeson does a very good job of showing a man constantly uncertain and desperately trying to find out the real culprit. He shows both the gruffness of the character, but also the emotional turmoil he’s been through in his lifetime. The plot throws in many twists and aside from one notable exception, they don’t come off as contrived and work in keeps the audience guessing. There are a number of red herrings thrown about, but anybody with any knowledge of Hitchcockian thrillers will know the real reveals from the fake ones. One clever plot device that Collet-Serra visually plays with is the use of text messages. With the continuing prominence of mobile phones in our day-to-day lives, writers have to be careful with how these devices have an impact on today’s stories. Neeson’s frequent messaging back-and-forth with our secret antagonist is handled very well through the use of on-screen graphics displaying the conversations. In one clever scene, they even play around with a broken screen to avoid a more restrictive rating.

While Liam Neeson is in every single scene in Non-Stop, he is given enough good support from his co-stars. Julianne Moore, almost reprising her friendly chatterbox role from Don Jon, is her usual dependable self and the movie never rules her out as a possible suspect. Michelle Dockery’s main purpose is to look pretty in her stewardess outfit, but she does well in the part, nonetheless. However, those hoping to see another strong performance from Lupita Nyong’o following her 12 Years a Slave success should probably expect more screen time during this weekend’s Academy Awards show than her minor role here. That any of the passengers or even the airline crew could potentially be the villain shows the variety of clues the writers throw at the audience. While some of them may be obvious on repeated viewings and closer inspection, all of them are at least feasible in the world of action spectacle cinema.

The stunt choreography is handled to superb effect, with the actors moving perfectly in tune with the sudden movements of the airplane and the fighting never losing its intensity. Of particular consideration is the work of the sound crew. Steve Maslow’s team had the difficult task of capturing the stuffy environment of an airplane and still making the audio pristine. The sound mixers are the unsung heroes of current filmmaking, especially action blockbusters like Non-Stop, and when they are given a tricky job and they fire on all cylinders, they deserve recognition for it. The final revelation does come off as silly and the screenplay doesn’t particularly offer any insightful clues that might lead one to that conclusion. The way it connects to a recent historical tragedy and the motivation is both cheap and highly illogical. It’s disappointing that after all of the investigating and tension, that becomes the pay-off. Thankfully, it’s quickly followed by a spectacularly constructed action sequence, but it’s still a sour note on which to reveal everything.

Non-Stop is hardly a film meant to be taken entirely seriously, but it succeeds in being a fun and exciting flight with a steady director and talented crew at the helm. Liam Neeson has been reinventing himself as an action hero lately and he is more than believable as this drunken air marshal. This is sheer fun from start to finish, keeps one guessing and in its mystery subplot, the suspect is not quite so easy to spot as one might think. Non-Stop isn’t anything more than a fun weekend evening outing that will excite for an hour and forty minutes and a simple break from the Oscar fare that will be handed trophies very soon.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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