Movie Review: ‘Non-Stop’

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Film: Non-Stop
Starring: Liam Neeson
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Airplanes have served as the setting for many great thrillers throughout cinematic history. Unfortunately, Non-Stop is not one of them.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) more or less hates his life. He was once somebody everyone could love, but after years of alcohol abuse and a refusal to face his own personal demons Bill has become an air marshall whose life is almost void of joy. He drinks, he hates, he festers.

When the audience meets Bill Marks he is sneaking a few final swigs of liquor before boarding a non-stop flight from the US to the UK. He’s tired, but alert, and even though he’d rather be anywhere else he is still committed to doing his job. Once the flight is in the air however, things quickly go awry when Bill receives a mysterious text message on his cell phone. It’s a private line, and as far as he knows the only people with access are members of the government. This isn’t the government though, not in the slightest.

After a short exchange of messages, the mysterious contact requests $150 million be transferred to a bank account of their choosing. Bill refuses, and in response the person on the other end of the text conversation promises that someone will die every twenty minutes until their demands are met. The movie is not twenty minutes deep at this point, but the story is in full swing.

The conceit of Non-Stop is as good as any recent mile high thriller, but problems arise almost as soon as the story gets underway. Bill is in no way a likable protagonist, and even though you want the innocent people on board to be saved you never really have a reason to root for Bill other than the fact he’s the person receiving the texts.

Speaking of texts, there are a lot of them in Non-Stop. The first hour of the film is told mainly through text blocks on the screen. This would be fine if there was something to keep viewers hooked, but considering the fact every bit of marketing has shown that things get out of control on the plane there is very little reason for the viewer to care this early on. We all know bad stuff is going to go down eventually. The pleasantries exchanged beforehand are just unwanted (and often mindless) foreplay.

Once the rules are laid out, things smooth over for the audience while growing increasingly out of hand for the people aboard the flight. The body count rises, as do fears of exactly what is going on, and just when Bill thinks he has it solved the whole thing is flipped upside down. He may be in on it. He may not. No one knows the answer, which may be the biggest problem of them all.

There would be a lot of good things to say about Non-Stop if it had found a way to save itself from crashing and burning, but the film follows familiar tropes for the majority of its running time, then scrambles towards a conclusion so haphazardly that all plausibility is completely thrown out the window. The characters – both good and bad – behave in ways completely unlike the rest of the film. It’s as if the filmmaker had a great conclusion in mind, but no idea how to work towards that point from the beginning of the story.

Liam Neeson has placed himself alongside Mark Wahlberg as someone movie fans can depend on to save the winter box office slump. Non-Stop threatens to ruin that reputation with by-the-numbers pacing and a predictable whodunnit story that is neither original or all that engaging. The acting is stale, the twists are familiar, and not a single sequence stands out as something you will remember, or even think about, six months from now. It’s fluff, and even then it’s mediocre at best.

Score: C

Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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