'Non-Stop's' third act contrivance ruins what little promise the film had
PHOTO BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Where is it playing?: Sunset Drive-In, Downtown Centre, Park, Stadium 10
What's it rated?: PG-13
What's it worth?: $3.00
What's it worth?: $4.00
Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) directs Liam Neeson as Air Marshal Bill Marks, who, on a transatlantic flight, begins to receive text messages demanding a $150 million transfer into an offshore account or else the passengers he’s been charged to protect will begin to die. The film also stars recent Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o. (106 min.)
Editor’s note: Glen Starkey’s wife Anna joined him this week for Split Screen.
Glen: I like Liam Neeson because he can play weary like nobody’s business. He was, for instance, wonderful in The Grey, about a sharpshooter for an oil company in self-imposed exile in Alaska. He brings the same broken-down gravitas to Bill Marks, a man committed to his duty as an air marshal despite his alcoholism. He’s also a kind man, which we see in his interaction with Becca (Quinn McColgan), a little girl flying alone to meet her father in London. Once the flight is in the air, he gets his first text message, and the film quickly becomes a whodunit. Is if Tom Bowen (Scoot McNairy), a guy who lied to him about where he was flying to? Maybe it’s Fahim Nasir (Omar Metwally), a Middle Eastern man? Or could it be Austin Reilly (Corey Stoll), an overly aggressive passenger who claims to be NYPD? When the 20 minutes is up, someone is dead, but it didn’t play out as Marks expected, and meanwhile his supervisor begins to suspect Marks may be incompetent. Marks begins to see he’s being framed; can he save the passengers before he’s stripped of his duties? This rather fruitful and tense set-up, unfortunately, is quickly squandered by a series of increasingly implausible plot twists. And this comes from a guy who likes these kinds of films. I can’t wait to see how my wife eviscerates the film. Anna, dear?
Anna: Where to begin with this film? I will watch Liam Neeson any day of the week: The guy can act. In fact, there are a lot of great actors in this movie, but the plotline and script doesn’t do them any favors. The concept is a bit far fetched to begin with, and once the true motives behind the hijacking are revealed, it becomes even more unbelievable. I would have liked to see more character development, something to give me a reason to root for any one of the people on that plane. We got a slight glimpse at Bill’s past, but to me it felt like it was just sort of thrown out there in hopes of giving the audience any reason to like the character. In the end, I didn’t even care who the bad guy turned out to be; it was such a ridiculous story that I was rolling my eyes every time some new twist came along.
Glen: It’s true! I could actually hear her eyes rolling in the theater. This is definitely a dude movie, but it was really trying to have some heart. In addition to the stuff with the little girl, Marks clearly has a fond platonic relationship with Nancy (Michelle Dockery), a flight attendant who has sympathy for him despite his personal shortcomings. We also learn that Nancy is in a romantic relationship with co-pilot Kyle Rice (Jason Butler Harner). Then there’s Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), a first-class passenger seated next to Marks, who fluctuates between someone he trusts and then later suspects might be in on it. As the passengers turn against Marks, he’s forced to reveal his shortcomings, his alcoholism, all while trying to convince them to trust him as he tries to find who’s behind it all. There are lots of attempts at heartstring tugging in here, but I’m afraid Anna’s right: The story becomes ridiculous, and when we finally discover who’s doing it and why, the film has already fallen apart. Worse, now writing this review a day after we saw the film, as I think back to little details, I find more and more loose ends. Maybe that’s not surprising for a film with three credited writers: John W. Richardson (first time writer), Christopher Roach (TV writer for WWF Raw), and Ryan Engle (who wrote a short called East of West in 2000). What this really proves is that even Liam Neeson can’t save a movie from a bad script.
Anna: When we walked out of theater, I had one word to describe the film we had just seen, and it was “dumb.” I couldn’t get invested in the characters because there were so many bad plot twists happening all of the time. It wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen, but it certainly didn’t do anything for me. I liked the characters—not just Neeson’s and Moore’s, but the copilot as well as flight attendant Nancy—but the story didn’t do them justice. If they would have focused more on letting the audience get to know the people on that flight, I think it would have been more tolerable. Let’s just say if this movie is on TV in six months, you will get a very big eye roll if you try to talk me into re-watching it.
Glen Starkey is a New Times staff writer.
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