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'Non-Stop' crash lands

Universal

By Mayank Mathur, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 27, 2014

If there’s one thing worse than a goofy movie, it’s a goofy movie that takes itself too seriously. Why can’t certain films just embrace what they are without pretending to be heavy when they’re really just pure popcorn flicks? This is a question you’re sure to ask yourself after seeing Jaume Collet-Serra’s (“Orphan”) latest offering titled “Non Stop.”

The film focuses on Air Marshall Bill Marks, played by Liam Neeson (“Taken 2”), and his struggle to prevent a passenger from killing others every 20 minutes aboard a flying aircraft. He is aided in his efforts by fellow passenger Jen Summers (Julliane Moore, “Don Jon”) and airhostesses Nancy (Michelle Dockery, “Anna Karenina”) and Gwen (Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”). The murderer informs Marks via text that he will continue to kill people on board until 150 million dollars are transferred to his account. As time flies by, the body count rises. The situation soon gets out of hand as passengers and crew begin to suspect Marks, who is revealed to be an alcoholic and a disgraced former police officer, of hijacking the plane for his personal gain.

Can Marks successfully pit his wits against the killer and find him before it’s too late? Can he convince the passengers and crew of his innocence? Can he smoke and drink in the toilet on the plane?

You bet he can — it’s Liam Neeson we’re talking about here.

However, despite doing all those things, Neeson cannot save a film that repeatedly shoots itself in the foot throughout its 106-minute running time. On paper, the story seems interesting enough — there’s a troubled protagonist caught in a compromising situation, the stage is set for a classic “whodunnit?” and there’s scope for continuous evolution of the plot every 20 minutes as the killer picks the passengers and the crew off one by one. However, the clumsy handling and execution of a potentially promising script handicaps any possible advantages the film and the script might have had in the first place.

The thrills take too long to come and are eventually too dull to inspire any genuine suspense. The film does provide some laughs — most of which are intentional — but laughs aren’t what keep an action thriller buoyant; as the name suggests, it’s the action and thrills that must do the job. Unfortunately, this film falls short by a long way in both departments. The action set pieces are saved for the climax, but are ultimately too goofy and poorly executed to carry any serious weight.

The film deals itself its biggest blow when it offers a gritty viewpoint on airline security post-9/11. By offering its thoughts on such a controversial topic, the film disrupts the flow of chaotic idiocy that had come to typify its tone. It combines comedy with suspense – functioning as a very unique ‘comedy-thriller’ – but then abandons its silliness by offering perspective on a sensitive topic.

It’s easy to take the film with a grain of salt and forgive the many errors until it reaches the climax because it is at least entertaining until that point. By attempting to deal a heavy handed message amidst chaotic handling of a promising story, the film does itself no favors and ultimately crash lands, taking any joy derived from its clumsy handling with it and ultimately leaving viewers with a bad taste in their mouth.


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