What makes a movie good? Does it has to have a great setting? A great plot? Can a movie that looks cheesy on paper actually be good through execution? Non-Stop is our chance to look at a movie that, by all accounts, looks as if the plot was written on a napkin. This includes action at high altitudes while cramped into a tiny space while an evil mastermind pulls us in all sorts of directions. Hit the jump and let’s take a closer look.
Whatever you do, I don’t recommend watching Non-Stop immediately before flying. I’m about to do just that right now, and I’m not so crazy about flying to begin with. This is the kind of flick you’ll never see in-flight . With all that’s going on at 30,000+ feet, you might be tempted to take the train. The premise starts off simple. Someone tells our hero Marshal Bill Marks that one passenger will be executed every 20 minutes until money is transferred to a specified bank account.
While the premise is all cheese, the execution is amazing. Non-Stop‘s opening scene is a great example. The focus shifts from our broken, drunk hero a US Air Marshal, to Liam Neeson‘s grizzled face, to the realization that we’re at an airport. I appreciate all the information conveyed in such a short period of time. Through this scene it was clear director Jaume Collet-Serra is doing great work.
The name of the game here is misdirection. From the outset when we see passengers in an airport setting through the hero’s eyes – the need to treat everyone as suspect is a fixture. This is a movie that knows that you are trying to figure out who the baddie is, and keeps you guessing. Everyone we see, looks, feels, or even talks as if they’re suspect (excluding the child, naturally). All of the actors cast appeared to me as though they might be capable. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t able to figure out how, or who, was involved.
Given that the entire movie happens in a commonly cramped space, you’ll get a sense that the space is rather large. For most airlines, washrooms won’t let you stand up, let alone fight some dude. Using the cockpit, first class and economy to separate the action helps make things feel more spacious. You get the sense that, while Marks is doing something in first class, the passengers in economy are talking mutiny.
And the way Marks handles one such rebellion is very cool indeed. I felt like Marks needed his wits to come up with this really nifty way to quell uneasy passengers. This what Non-Stop does well: throw curve balls into the mix that actually feel like curveballs; not some schlocky contrived plot point. The ultimate reveal, and obligatory baddie explanation are even reasonably sound. Seriously, I expected something much more stupid.
There are some parts that may have ruined the fun here, but all involved have to be given some leeway. There is a ludicrous idea involving a cell phone virus installed by way of a text photo. That our hero is so willing to let a civilian use his phone on a secure network is one thing; But, to let him do something technically impossible (inside of 8 minutes no-less) is just stupid. Throughout all of this, it’s clear that Marks must trust too many civilians to make the necessary mystery unfold. Other smaller events seem to happen without payoff, like a car search in a news report.
While Non-Stop isn’t going to be up for Academy consideration, you have to respect a good, tight, well-done thriller. This is a movie that has action, some tender moments, great acting and a mystery you probably won’t figure out before the reveal.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Non-Stop stars Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy and is in theatres now.