'Non-Stop' is entertaining, but has the worst ending
The newest Liam Neeson ("Taken," "Next of Kin," "Schindler's List") action thriller, "Non-Stop," has a title that is a take on an airline travel term that signifies going from point A to point B, with no pauses along the way.
It also subliminally implies a storyline that is fast-paced and relentless.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra ("Orphan," "Unknown," "House of Wax") brings us a nice (albeit overdone) plot that involves a high jacking attempt with various motives being diagnosed, and a lot of sleuth, a sort of "locked (cabin) room mystery."
To keep from getting dragged down, there is also quite a bit of action, mostly with Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) kicking butt from one end of the 707 to the other.
While these antics keep us on the edge of our seats, they seem to be one more situation where the 61-year-old hero beats up on countless enemy combatants who are half (or even a third) his age.
While Marks is a retired police officer, the fact that he can personally contain an entire airliner full of passengers (especially, post-911) without being taken down, is a bit of a stretch.
He does have a few allies, the biggest being Julianne Moore ("Hannibal," "The Big Lebowski," "Children of Men") as passenger Jen Summers. She has a great role as the passenger who is most "on the ball," and confident that the proposed hijacker is really the "Good Guy." But is she the Bad Guy?
Aside from these two main characters, there are several second-tier players that step up and play prominent parts in this little action play.
Michelle Dockery ("Hanna," "Downton Abby," "Anna Karenina") stars as Nancy, the flight attendant who does well as she tries hard to ignore the gripping suspense and mystery of the situation and continue overseeing the needs of the passengers.
Corey Stoll ("Salt," "The Bourne Legacy," "Midnight in Paris") plays a meaty role as a police officer/passenger, but is given a ridiculously naive persona that is supposed to be "Die Hard" detective, John McLain as a second class player.
He looks much more like a man who can take care of himself than Neeson's character does, yet remains subservient to the star.
The remaining line-up of passengers and crew includes a couple of television faces that will give viewers those "where do I know him from?" thoughts.
Linus Roache ("Law & Order," "Coronation Street," "Before the Rains") appears as the pilot, David McMillan and Anson Mounts ("Hell on Wheels," "Straw Dogs," "Safe") as Federal Air Marshal Jack Hammond.
Both have minor roles that are done well, but only serve as back-up singers to the lead guitar player, Neeson.
This weekend's Academy Award Winner, Lupita Nyong'o ("12 Years a Slave," "Shuga") really enjoyed her Best Supporting Actress win, but all the audience of this movie gets to enjoy is a terribly underused performance of her as the second stewardess. I'm betting this is the last time we will see her in such a minor role.
"Non-Stop" really is nothing more than "Taken" on a plane, cashing in on the star's popularity as an action hero. The movie is meticulous about its storyline, but is errant when it comes to realistic accuracy.
It has many faux pas of the technical variety, but does come through nicely in the "twists & turns" department, as the audience is constantly kept guessing as to who the Bad Guy is.
One of the biggest, most glaring, faults is that a few of the key one-liner remarks are so unintelligible, that they cause you to "miss" something important. This happened to me, at least, on several occasions.
This is probably one of the best mysteries that I have seen in a long time, even though everything else about the movie is ordinary, or possibly just a bit above.
If you get a bit claustrophobic in enclosed spaces, do not be afraid here, as the filming makes the plane seem very expansive, with no sense of compression during the fight scenes or any other portion of the movie.
The real kicker for "Non-Stop" comes in the finale, where the plot has to be explained to be believed (a pet peeve of mine), and even then, is hard to believe. It is convoluted and contrived and makes for the worst ending of the year, even as the movie as a whole is pretty darn entertaining.
It's like that teacher who grades on a curve. If every other variable (student) is an A-, and one variable (ending) is an F-, then what should be a solid B+ movie, is actually a C-.
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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