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Non-Stop – film review

March 6, 2014


Non-stop silliness, stupidly enjoyable.

Reviewed on Thursday 26th February 2014

non-stop liam neeson

A French-American co-production. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Screenplay       by John W. Richardson & Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle, story by John W. Richardson & Christopher Roach. Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o and Michelle Dockery. Running time: 106 mins.

A US Air Marshal aboard a trans-Atlantic flight becomes an unwitting pawn in a conspiracy to discredit him when someone on board threatens to kill a passenger every twenty minutes – unless a 150 million dollar ransom is paid.

I did go into this film quite peeved that major plot points had been revealed in the theatrical trailer (including the ending) – so for anyone who is planning to see this movie – I would strongly suggest you stear clear of the trailer if you can.

Following the screenwriting mantra that exposition should ideally be seen and not spoken – there is a nice example of this which opens the movie; introducing us to Liam Neeson’s character and giving us a snap-shot impression of him within a matter of seconds. Clearly hungover, Bill Marks sits in his car at an airport. He pours himself a sizeable slug of whisky into a cup of coffee and uses a toothbrush to stir it, before he downs the brew and sprays a couple of bursts of breath freshener into his mouth – clearly an attempt to conceal the fact he is a high-functioning alcoholic. While this would normally be considered a less-than-ideal trait for a lead character to have     (not to mention a character who is responsible for the lives of others) – it is Liam Neeson’s affable persona which instantly makes him endearing. This is the first time I’ve seen Neeson in a leading role since Schindler’s List and he really is perfectly cast as an action hero. He has a commanding screen presence and natural charisma which other leading men of his generation seem to have lost in recent times. Julianne Moore does well with what little she has to work with and Scoot McNairy plays his role with gusto – a very different part to the one he played in Monsters. Lupita Nyong’o (this year’s best supporting actress Oscar-winner for 12 Years A Slave) also has a small role as a flight attendant; as does Downton Abbey fave Michelle Dockery.

While the cast works well together, the biggest problem with this movie is the half-baked screenplay by neophyte writers John W. Richardson & Christopher Roach (along with Ryan Engle). The script lacks direction – which becomes most apparent when the extortionist is finally identified and their underlying reason for implicating Marks in their machinations is revealed. It is difficult to tell whether their ramblings are the product of an unhinged mind or just unfocussed writing – so muddled and incoherent is their explanation. As a villian’s motivation it has to rank as one of       the most lame and convoluted ever!

Juame Collet-Serra’s direction is unremarkable for the most part, although I did enjoy the way he superimposes the flurry of text messages Neeson sends and receives from the extortionist on screen – thus lending a certain conversational fluidity to what could easily have become tiresome very quickly. On the downside, his attempts at creating a sense of geography aboard the aircraft by having the camera fly out of     one window and in through another (Fincher-style) are less successful thanks in part to the CG elements not meshing with the live action. And speaking of CG – the overblown finale involving the plane features some of the least convincing CG     seen in a major movie for quite some time.

While it could never be accused of being particularly clever, Non-Stop is yet another in the current cycle of convoluted thrillers which draws you in during the watching     of the film – while its far fetched implausabilities only become apparant afterwards.     This is not to say the film is any less enjoyable. It’s a sleight-of-hand which audiences appear to be more accepting of these days – so long as the viewing experience itself is diverting enough. Another recent example of this is last year’s Now You See Me – a film which, while considered a critical misfire in the US; found   a more welcoming audience internationally. And as with that particular film, it is the casting in this movie which contributes largely to its appeal. If it were anyone other than Liam Neeson in the lead, Non-Stop wouldn’t be nearly as likeable as it is. Sure it’s nonsense – but it’s not unappealing nonsense.

2.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Piccadilly Cinemas, North Adelaide, February 26th 2014.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

From → film reviews

  1. Great review. Agree! I mean… I don’t know. This was shit but… Oh well, it was fun. : )


    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks table nine! Yeah, silly – but not unenjoyable. 🙂


      • Yeah – I was really in the mood for a simple popcorn movie when I went to it so had fun anyway. : )


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