“Non-Stop” action with three-dimensional characters and a surprising ending

aka My Review of “Non-Stop” with Liam Neeson

(this review contains spoilers, so beware, but it’s nothing major)

Is Liam Neeson the new go-to action hero in Hollywood? Have the younger ones left? I’m not complaining, though. “Taken” was a thrilling ride, and its sequel was also decent, even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first part. Also, Neeson is a brilliant actor and I have yet to see a film with him I genuinely didn’t like.

The trailer for “Non-Stop” promises an action-filled adventure several thousand feet above the ground and it meets the expectations it evokes, seriously.

My Verdict

Visually very interesting. Great character and a brilliant way of showing rather than telling when it comes to the characters’ makeup. Great performances, especially from Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. Surprising twists, fast-paced story telling.

Definitely worth the watch and I’ll surely watch it again when I’m in the mood for a good action thriller!

The starting point

With a few, rare exceptions, we always follow Bill Marks, Federal Marhsal, from his car into the air port. We see him pour a lot of alcohol in his coffee, then caress the picture of a young girl. At the gate, the world is out of focus safe a few details Bill Marks notices about the people waiting there which will be important later on. Before that, a guy came up to him and asked for a light, trying to engage him in conversation but Marks ignores him.

He also notices a redhead complaining about her seat – she wanted a window seat but didn’t get one. Later, she will switch the window seat with Zach White, whom Marks passed at the security check, ending up next to our protagonist.

Then the texts start.

A stranger has hacked the secure network Air Marshalls use and is threatening to kill a person on this plane every 20 minutes until 150 Million Dollars are deposited into an account. Marks thinks it’s a joke his colleague Hammond is playing on him. He, of course, denies everything, having also fallen victim to the stranger who hacked their network.

A little more than 10 minutes later, Hammond acts suspicious, Marks confronts him, Hammond attacks, Marks defends himself. Shortly after Marks breaks Hammond’s neck, the timer on his clock goes off.

The 20 minutes are up. A passenger is dead.

We can’t trust anyone

Marks employs the help of Nancy, the head stewardess, and his neighbour Jen, the only two people in this plane he can trust.  They narrow down the list of suspects, Marks’ bosses have checked the passengers if there is a reason to suspect anyone but it comes back without anything helpful.

Marks wakes up the entire plane at two in the morning for a random search (which is in his rights to do as an Air Marshal).  This is when the fun really begins.

What follows is a thrilling play of cat and mouse, in which Marks is trying to catch up with the killer but fails. I was impressed how the camera mimicked Bill Marks’ gaze, how the viewer could understand his reasoning perfectly and develop new theories.

To the outside world, it looks like Bill Marks is behind the attacks on the plane – especially because the account for the 150 Million is in his name. Clever, dear terrorists. Clever. Also, some kid with a camera phone films Marks during his investigation – yes, Marks is pretty rough in his handling of the suspects and it does look like he is highjacking the plane.

Passengers team up against him, more people die and in the end, I was surprised by the revelation. Not by the “who is behind it“, but by the “why are they doing it“.

It is refreshing, to say the least, to not be able to predict the outcome of a blockbuster for a change.

Personal highlights

“Non-Stop” is a fast paced movie with great visual aesthetics. They displayed the text messages not by having the camera glance at the phone but by projecting them onto the screen, floating around. It reminded me a lot of BBC’s Sherlock. The villain was also very Sherlockian – always a step ahead, outsmarting the protagonist.

Oh yes, the protagonist. Bill Marks is an alcoholic, a bad father and psychologically not the most stable person around. And all his flaws make him incredibly believable as a character and, in my eyes, very likable. He isn’t the perfect hero but he is the hero.

Who stole everyone’s show, however, was Dr. Fahim Nasir, portrayed by Omar Metwally. Obviously Arabic in appearance and name, a lot of passengers are suspicious of him. Marks searches him, too, because he handled his phone while Marks was texting the stranger. He isn’t behind the attacks – surprise everyone, the bloke from Eastern Europe isn’t a terrorist – and helps Marks later in the movie.

I loved how they played with the preconception every passenger had about Dr. Nasir and how, in the end, this definitely wasn’t a terrorist attack – it was an inside job, inside meaning “Americans did it”.  So really, I bow to the filmmakers for actively showing that not every arabic looking person is automatically anti-American or a terrorist. This might be obvious to a lot of people but I still think it is important to stress it.

*

“Non-Stop”

D: Jaume Collet-Serra

Script: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle

Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

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