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Non-Stop (2014)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"No, Lupita!"
1 stars

Every once in a while, a film comes along with the kind of premise that is so instantly catchy and irresistible on the most basic and fundamental of levels that you have to wonder why no one ever thought to make them into movies before. Every once in a while, you get films that takes such premises and works them out in smart, inventive and endlessly entertaining ways, as in the cases of such instant classics as "Speed" or "Seven." Too often, however, you get films that quickly demonstrate why no one tried to bring them to the big screen before--because while the premises in question may sound appealing at first blush, they contain so many inherent logical flaws that it is virtually impossible to spin them out into a full story without descending into total incoherence and utter silliness.

If it does nothing else--and it doesn't--the new thriller "Non-Stop" at least doesn't waste too much time before letting audiences know which path it has chosen. The basic idea of the film--take a standard locked room murder mystery featuring an isolated group of characters/potential suspects/potential victims and relocate it on a plane flying over the ocean--is undeniably catchy and quietly underscores how all airline passengers are essentially hostages the moment that the doors close and the plane leaves the tarmac. And yet, once it sets up its premise, it then proceeds to squander it with a script that is remarkably preposterous even by the standards of contemporary action film standards. By the end, there is a backlog of loose ends, ridiculous plot twists and countless questions for viewers to deal with, starting with the inevitable query about what great actors like Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore are doing in a project this idiotic in the first place.

When we first see Neeson, he is sitting in his car and simultaneously smoking, drinking, angrily arguing with someone over the phone over something or other and staring balefully at a photograph that presumably triggers memories of a bucolic past that has somehow slipped out of his reach. At first, I just assumed this was B-roll footage of Neeson shot between takes that was intended to be included on the "making-of" documentary featurette on the inevitable Blu-ray. As it turns out, this is actually Neeson's character, two-fisted, hard-drinking U.S. air marshall Bill Marks and he is about to do his duty on a transatlantic flight from New York to London. The plane has barely gotten into the air when he receives a series of text messages, supposedly from one of his fellow passengers, stating that they will kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes until $150 million is transferred to a bank account.

When a body does indeed turn up 20 minutes later, Marks knows that this is no hoax and he launches into full investigative mode in order to suss out the suspect from amongst his fellow passengers before another twenty minutes elapses. Inevitably, he has a cabin full of walking cliches to check into. There is the mysterious woman (Moore) who winds up becoming his seatmate. There is the mild-mannered schoolteacher (Scoot McNairy) who is inexplicably on the plane even though he told Marks earlier he was going to Amsterdam. There is a hot-headed New York cop (Corey Stoll) who is under the impression that he is the John McClane of the group. There is the flight crew, which includes lead pilot Linus Roache and stewardesses Michelle Dockery and Lupita N'Yongo. There are even second-tier cliches like a brash black guy who likes to lip off, horny teens, a mild-mannered Muslim who is practically a profile in profiling and a young, though surprisingly disease-free, little girl traveling alone for the first time. The body count grows and to complicate matters, circumstances make it seem to both the passengers and people on the ground that Marks is actually trying to hijack the plane himself instead of struggling to save it from the real hijackers.

Okay, so how does a killer somehow manage to bump off fellow passengers without anyone noticing? How does this same person manage to manipulate events so that everyone thinks that Marks is actually the bad guy? More importantly, how does the screenplay from John W. Robinson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle solve these problems in an logical and airtight manner without resorting to increasingly implausible measures and outright cheating to get from plot point and plot point? So as not to spoil things, I won't answer the first two questions but in regards to the last one, the answer is simple enough--it doesn't. To give the script a little credit, the first murder is kinda of ingenious but after that, things just get stupider and more illogical as it goes along. Let me put it this way--it has been a long time since I have seen a pea-shooter deployed as a weapon.

Now I don't necessarily mind looney-tunes plotting in my action films as long as they follow some vague internal logic or are made with enough style to distract from the rest of the silliness--the current "3 Days To Kill" is a good example of a action extravaganza that tells a story that makes absolutely no sense but which still somehow works because of the skill with which it has been made. The problem with "Non-Stop" is that it is dumb as a box of rocks but is under the mistaken impression that it is actually being clever and mysterious. The idea of making Marks seem like he is the actual hijacker is potentially clever but since the film establishes from the outset that he is a true-blue hero type--troubled, perhaps, but definitely incorruptible--that notion never really pans out.

There is a plane full of suspects but the only way that the script deals with them is to make one of them into a blatant red herring for a few minutes only so that we can be certain that they won't be the brains behind the operation. As for the denouement when all is revealed, it is not only inane but borderline tasteless in the way that it awkwardly tries to insert a serious element into what has long since descended into total cartoonishness. Director Jaume Collet-Serro is a guy who clearly knows how to deliver on a batshit nutty premise--he was the guy who made the certifiably insane and pretty entertaining horror item "Orphan" a few years back--but even he cannot make anything out what he has been given to work with here.

What makes "Non-Stop" especially befuddling is that this screenplay--one of the dumbest things committed to paper in recent memory--somehow managed to attract a lot of talented people to bring it to near-life. This is the latest action thriller that Liam Neeson has appeared in since the surprise success of "Taken" launched the most unexpected career reinvention of a serious actor since Leslie Nielsen turned up in "Airplane!" and it is certainly the least of them--he still has an undeniably arresting presence and looks surprisingly convincing when kicking ass but even those assets are not enough to make up for the screenplay dregs he is forced to work with here. At least he gets dregs--Julianne Moore is so completely wasted on a seemingly meaningless part that the screenwriters have shoehorned in one of the more ridiculous backstory speeches that you will ever hear in what appears to be a desperate attempt to justify here presence.

Even the flight crew is overqualified and underutilized. It is amusing at first to see Lady Mary Crawley as one of the stewardesses but as British babes unexpectedly taking to the skies in dippy American airplane-based thrillers go, Michelle Dockery is no Elizabeth Hurley. As for Lupita N'Yongo, making her first film appearance since her critically-acclaimed debut in "12 Years a Slave," she is probably the luckiest of the bunch because she has maybe five lines in her blink-and-you-miss-it turn but all in all, my guess is that she probably wishes that this particular film wasn't appearing in theaters the exact same weekend that she is favored to win an Academy Award.

Generic in every aspect from its title on down, "Non-Stop" is another one of those movies that feels like it should be playing on a television or movie screen in the background of a scene from a real movie. Frankly, the nicest things to be said about it are that it moves along relatively quickly and that it is frankly too silly to be particularly offensive, at least until the appalling final scenes. Other than that, all it does is waste a good premise and your valuable time and money on an enterprise that could have been better if anyone involved had just put a little more effort into the proceedings. As idiotic airplane-based thrillers that waste good casts go, it may be better in the end than "Flightplan"--remember that gumdrop?--but that was one of the stupidest movies ever made and, truth be told, "Non-Stop" isn't that much better.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25830&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/27/14 22:16:45
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User Comments

4/01/18 Crazy D interesting ending. 4 stars
4/18/15 *its flyin' coach 3 stars
7/26/14 mr.mike Does it's job. 4 stars
3/09/14 JT Sucker Punch Ending A Big Disappointment 1 stars
3/01/14 The Big D Great premise with a disappointing conclusion--DON'T make American veterans the bad guys! 2 stars
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  28-Feb-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 10-Jun-2014


  DVD: 10-Jun-2014

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