Non-Stop might not re-write the manual on the suspense/thriller and the script seems culled from the 1990s, but it’s an enjoyable flick and another winner with Liam Neeson in the lead who has proven to be more than a capable action hero.
Genre(s): Action, Suspense/Thriller, Crime
Universal Studios | PG13 – 107 min. – $34.98 | June 10, 2014
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Note: This review contains SPOILERS concerning the plot, so please skip this section if you don’t want to learn certain plot points.
The script for Non-Stop seemed to have been culled from the 1990s, with technological updates, to the point where it could’ve been instead called Under Siege 3: Non-Stop. That isn’t to say it’s a bad thing but if you think you’re going to get a complex thriller, then this is probably not for you.
The story centers on U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (LIAM NEESON), an alcoholic whose disease perpetrated by the death of his 8-year-old daughter. He’s set to protect an international flight from New York to London. As the film opens, we get a wrap around view of each passenger, aka suspects: Jen Summers (JULIANNE MOORE), Tom Bowen (SCOOT MCNAIRY), Dr. Fahim Nasir (OMAR METWALLY), Zack White (NATE PARKER), Austin Reilly (COREY STOLL), Kyle Rice (JASON BUTLER HARNER) and even flight attendants Nancy (MICHELLE DOCKERY) and Gwen (recent Oscar winner LUPITA NYONG’O), amongst others. Now, outside of a couple of these, like Moore, Dockery and Nyong’o, I couldn’t even begin to tell you anything about them as their development is limited.
Soon after takeoff, Marks begins receiving texts from an anonymous person, likely on the plane, demanding $150 million or else every 20 minutes a passenger will be killed. Marks is given a banking route and when inquiring with the pilot to speak with the FAA and the U.S. Marshals, discovers the account is in his own name! Marks also consults with the other Marshal (ANSON MOUNT) on board who initially waves it off as a joke and hoax, though we all know, as does Marks does, that it is not. As the texts continue to pour in, Marks enlists Jen Summers, who has seated next to him, and the stewardess to watch live surveillance footage to identity possible subjects.
As Marks goes through suspects, it becomes apparent to the others something is wrong and before long, thanks to a video in which Marks is being rough with a passenger he suspects is the culprit, even those on the ground believe he is the one and a terrorist who has hijacked the plane, and killed a few including the pilot, and it is his demands for the $150 million. So not only must he weed out the real terrorist, and uncover their true intentions as Marks believes it’s something more than the money, but also deal with those on the ground who think he has gone rogue.
Alright, it’s quite obvious, even from the trailers, Non-Stop was never going to be a high concept or a deep thinker’s thriller and instead it’s a 104-minute mystery, with an admittedly inane and clichéd conclusion. But because of Liam Neeson’s undeniable screen presence, and despite the fact he more or less plays the same character over and over again, he is able to take a mundane script with stilted dialogue and throwaway characters and turn it into a perfectly acceptable flick.
With regards to the supporting cast, it is interesting to see Julianne Moore take a role that is pretty much thankless. Outside of her name, you really don’t know much about her except she’s a frequent flyer but she provides some much needed weight and does contribute to the central plot in more ways than one and I appreciate her even more. Won’t go into why, but let’s just say it’s like… magic.
The supporting players also include Michelle Dockery best known for her role as Lady Mary Crawley on “Downton Abbey” and, outside of Moore, provides the most opposite Neeson; recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o makes an appearance but this is pre-12 Years a Slave fame and her part is mostly a throwaway; Scoot McNairy’s role is fairly limited but he provides some fun intensity; and with Anson Mount, I only wish he were in it more.
Helmed by Jaume Collet-Serra, with the screenplay by a trio of first-time credited feature writers, Non-Stop is a fun ride even if many moments dabbled in the sheer stupidity that goes so far to defy physics itself. Still, it’s an entertaining flick and his re-teaming with Neeson after 2011’s Unknown works well even with, or in spite of, all the problems with the script.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
This release comes with a matted, title-embossed, slip cover. Inside are a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy authorization code for both UltraViolet and iTunes. As for features, unfortunately there’s only a mere 14-minutes worth of material.
Non-Stop Action (5:14; HD) is a basic production featurette providing basic behind-the-scenes footage and cast/crew interviews.
Suspense at 40,000 Feet (7:45; HD) provides some more BTS action and interviews; it’s really nothing special or revealing.
Previews – Lone Soldier, Sabotage, Bad Words, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Non-Stop makes a layover onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer (AVC codec) and shown in its original 2.40 theatrical aspect ratio. The picture unsurprisingly looks incredible with excellent and sharp detail levels and colors have a nice pop going more into blue tones while on the plane. Blacks are deep and show no signs of artifacts, pixilation or compression issues. There is some natural noise but nothing overabundant and all in all gives as close to a theatrical quality at home.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 isn’t overly strong but reliable with clear dialogue coming through the center channel with ambient noises, like the mummers and screams from the passengers, making up the bulk of the front and rear speakers. John Ottman’s score, albeit low key at times, comes through fairly well.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Non-Stop might not re-write the manual on the suspense/thriller and the script seems culled from the 1990s, but it’s an enjoyable flick and another winner with Liam Neeson in the lead who has proven to be more than a capable action hero. The Blu-ray released by Universal is limited in scope with only two EPK featurettes but the audio and video transfers are both top notch.