Saturday, June 21, 2014

Movie Reviews: Non-Stop

Non-Stop
directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
The director previously directed Liam Neeson in Unknown. He also directed Orphan. Like both of those films Non-Stop has a big twist about 2/3rds of the way thru the story. However whereas Neeson was perfect in Unknown and the story in Orphan, although seemingly ridiculous near the end, worked for most of the movie, here I'd have to say that Neeson puts this film on his back and carries it (just barely) across the goal line. But the film really didn't deserve to score a touchdown. It's one of those touchdowns where instead of the running back breaking through the line and dragging people into the end-zone , the quarterback places the ball exactly one inch over the white line, ever so gently breaking the plane. It may be a touchdown according to the rules but it's hardly something that you can brag about. It's not the stuff of legend. Still, a touchdown is a touchdown. Neeson is a good, solid exciting actor who works well with what's on display in this film. Neeson's a big man, well over six feet. The confined spaces of the aircraft work to give his character an irritation as well as a sense of physical dominance that serves the story well. 

Years ago this sort of whodunnit would have been placed on a train or boat (Murder on the Orient Express) but in today's world it obviously makes more sense to set this story on an airliner that's making an international flight. Similarly, in another era Neeson would have been playing marshals, kings, and other Type A characters so it fits that in this movie he's playing a federal air marshal, Bill Marks. Marks doesn't like flying. He is a high functioning alcoholic and is carrying some unprocessed grief over his deceased daughter, along with a ribbon she used to wear.  You meet all sorts of people on air trips of course and Marks meets a woman in his age range, Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), who sits next to him and might be flirting with him, a truculent man named Zack White (Nate Parker) who doesn't like Marks' tone of voice or authoritative attitude, a sexy woman (Bar Paly) whose cleavage and semi-public grinding with her boyfriend attract plenty of attention, and of course his old friend, stewardess Nancy Hoffman (Michelle Dockery) who along with the pilots, other stewardesses, and the other air marshal Jack Hammond (Anson Mount), knows that Marks is an armed air marshal.
While he's settling in to enjoy what he hopes will be a typically uneventful flight from NYC to London, Bill gets a text message from an unidentified person. This shouldn't be possible as Bill's federal communications network is supposed to be encrypted and private but the message is there all the same. The message explains that unless $150 million is deposited into an account in 20 minutes someone on the plane will die. And every 20 minutes after that as well the unknown texter will kill someone on the plane.
Well that will just ruin your day. Marks tries to play this according to protocol but discovers that protocol won't work as the marshal service itself has been compromised. In fact thanks to some nifty but unrealistic moves, many people on and off the plane are convinced that Marks is the actual hijacker. It's up to Marks to try to figure out who he can trust and who he can't. This becomes a matter of urgency as more people die, fighter planes are scrambled and Marks comes to believe that the texter is actually on the plane. There are the normal double crosses and faulty assumptions. If you were on a plane you thought was being hijacked or worse was going to be blown up would you sit on your rusty-dusty and hope that other people did something or would you try to take action yourself? It's only your life we're talking about. This was an okay movie. It would have been fine to see it in theater. That actually might have been preferable, what with the sound and special FX. But it was by no means a great movie. I didn't care for the reveal or the ending. Talk about unintelligent. Julianne Moore didn't have a whole lot to do. Lupita Nyong'o had even less acting to accomplish. To make a play for your heartstrings there is of course a little girl traveling unaccompanied who touches Marks' long dormant paternal instincts. 
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