Non-Stop – It’s Not Shit
Who knew the recipe to happiness was so simple?
TL;DR Non-Stop is a perfectly formed thriller. A stellar cast, high production values, and unambiguously happy ending are just the icing on the cake. Now this is what I want in a movie. 5 out of 5 stars.
And it’s about fucking time I broke the 5 star drought.
The plot is fairly simple: Liam Neeson is a jaded, sometimes-alcoholic air marshall who clearly couldn’t give much of a shit about doing his job. On this flight, he starts receiving anonymous text messages from a would-be hijacker who is demanding some Doctor Evil level dollars be put into a bank account, or every 20 minutes they will kill someone aboard the flight. Things are complicated when, by making efforts to uncover the hijacker, Liam makes himself look like the culprit, which is part of the hijacker’s plan. After sifting through some red herrings and plane thriller situations, Liam eventually uncovers the truth about the hijacking: some disgruntled dudes are trying to make the media believe it’s a case of Air Marshall Gone Wild to precipitate better airport and flight security. So noble. Naturally, Liam kills the fuck out of them and lands this bitch of a plane, snagging himself a hot redhead (Julianne) along the way.
If it meant getting a date with Julianne Moore, I’d put up with a couple of guys’ post 9/11 whingeing, too.
Non-Stop isn’t a groundbreaking film. It won’t be remembered in 10 years. And if it gets a sequel, it will be awful.
But Non-Stop is a thoroughly swift, direct genre piece. I’d put it a step ahead of Flightplan, but a scooch below Red Eye.
Snakes On A Plane need not be compared.
Why I DON’T hate this movie:
I love me some casting, and this thing has casting. Firstly, there’s everyone’s favourite action hero who’s old enough to be your fit grandfather, Liam Neeson; Julianne Moore as a helpful love interest and in-and-out red herring; Lady Mary from Downton Abbey as an earnest flight attendant who’s friendly with Liam; Lupita Nyong’o as the other flight attendant, and proving she might still be viable for things that aren’t Oscar bait; Anson Mount (all praise the legacy of Urban Legends: Final Cut) as the unscrupulous second air marshall; that bald guy from House of Cards, and that not bald guy from The Strain; and, oddly, Bobby from Scary Movie as a mostly incidental passenger.
Non-Stop’s dedication to pacing and action is also worthy of high praise. A fantastic example of this is the villains’ slasher movie esque Motive Rant in the finale. It’s “blah blah 9/11, air marshalls failed us, also one of us is just in it for the money” for about 5 seconds, then Liam promptly offs those turds. Yes, it’s heavy. But it’s not heavy handed. Oh, you’re well intentioned extremists/martyrs? Too bad. You go die now. Neeson out.
The premise of Liam’s actions during the investigation being used as evidence for his guilt is delicious. Liam’s doggedness in continuing the investigation, despite failing confidence levels from both those on-board, as well as the TSA and the media, is typical Neeson badassery.
Julianne’s character is a bit inconsistent, and the movie often frames her as being obviously evil, but she is effective as Liam’s supposed true ally, but also possible hijack suspect. And given that it’s Julianne Moore, either is plausible throughout.
Lady Mary isn’t given much to do, but her friendship with Liam, which is tested, is one of the more tender aspects of the movie, and a necessary foil to his otherwise hardass approach for most of the runtime. She affirms her belief in him by putting herself in harm’s way to fight off one of the hijackers in the climax. What a trooper. And she gets to keep her British accent.
Julianne is the featured red herring, but Anson Mount turns out to be the most exciting. It turns out that he’s also receiving texts from the hijacker, but not the same kind: they’re actually taunts about the mountain of cocaine he’s smuggled aboard. Anson ends up as the first “kill” from the hijacker, when he and Liam get into a fight (which Liam wins. Obv). Then to top things off, the hijackers also smuggled their bomb inside of Anson’s cocaine brick. Slick as, bros.
The passengers are shown to be uncharacterstically level-headed for plane thriller victim fodder. It takes them a very long time to finally mount an offensive against Liam, who is alarmingly unhinged for a lot of his interactions with them. Then, when they realise their mistake, they, like Lady Mary, put themselves in harm’s way to help Liam turf out the hijackers. The New York cop (Corey “why’d ya put a wig on me, FX?” Stoll) gets shot, but survives.
The helpful computer programmer is one of the eventual hijackers. You little sneak. The other hijacker is the guy who Liam originally hits up for interrogation, but determines isn’t a threat. Clever girls.
The hijackers turn on each other: Programmer is only interested in the financial aspect, whereas Mr Cleared Earlier is prepared to martyr himself for the cause. Much discord.
Everyone (except the hijackers and the handful of 20 minute victims) lives through the crash landing. Good.
The TSA and media do offer their apologies at the end. Good.
Oh, and Liam smokes in the plane toilet stall by duct taping the air vent. I admire the dedication.
But it’s not all good:
Yeah, but as soon as he opens the door, all that lingering smoke would billow out. Silly.
Liam has some obligatory tragic backstory about a dead cancer daughter or something. It’s just an excuse to justify his alcoholism. Don’t need it, baby.
Julianne has some bizarre backstory about how a rare heart condition she has means she could die at any second. Okie dokie.
Lupita is noticeably underused.
Oh, and Liam only uncovers the identity of the hijackers through dumb luck. Another passenger had recorded Liam during one of his less-than-polite interactions with the passengers, and just happened to capture Mr Cleared Earlier slipping his incriminating phone into a red herring’s pocket. Way to close the case, Liam.
It’s uncomplicated fun, okay? It’s not shit. 5 out of 5 stars.