Non-Stop: A Hitchcock Syle Thriller Up in the Air
By Sandra Olmsted
Director Jaume Collet-Serra and actor Liam Neeson, who made Unknown in 2011, reteam in Non-Stop, a thrill ride of a popcorn film which borrow heavily from Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock. Most of the action takes place in the confined space of an airliner over the Atlantic, and Bill Marks (Neeson), a depressed, alcoholic US Air Marshal, must save the plane, the crew, and the passengers while they all believe he is hijacking the plane.
While Hitchcock frequently used confined spaces moving through space, such as trains, there’s no jumping off a plane, and the suspicion cast on Marks via text messages, phone calls, and uploaded videos presents Hitchcock’s pursued pursuer in a new way.
Strange plot twists, such as Marks killing Agent Marenick (Shea Whigham), the other air marshal on the flight, right at the time that “terrorist” says that a passenger will die, also cast doubt on Marks’ mental health. Could the terrorist who will kill a passenger every twenty minutes until $150 million is wired an account which happens to have Marks’ name on it, be Marks? Or is someone framing Marks? As soon as one passenger is dead, the clock starts again while Marks struggles to convince the crew of his loyalty, keep the passengers in check, and ferret out the terrorists.
Captain David McMillan (Linus Roache) thinks it’s just a hoax, but the text messages that Marks is receiving have to be coming from inside the plane, and the sender has hacked Marks’ secure federal cell phone. Marks’ finds an alley in Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), but even she is a suspect. Marks doesn’t know who to trust, but eventually he must trust some of the passengers.
Marks soon learns that ground control told McMillan to relieve him of his duties, gun, and badge and that the dead Marenick had a briefcase full of cocaine. Then McMillian dies suddenly, mysteriously locked in the cockpit with the copilot Kyle Rice (Jason Butler Harner). If Rice is the terrorist, it accounts for why Marks can’t root out the phone-using terrorist among the passengers.
School teacher Tom Bowen (Scoot McNairy) accepted $100 to strike up a conversation with Marks outside the airport, and Austin Reilly (Corey Stoll) defies Marks’ authority on the plane. Although they are sympathetic to Marks’ troubled history, flight attendants Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Gwen (Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o) could also easily be involved in the plot, and Dr. Fahim Nasir (Omar Metwally) fits the profile of a terrorist. Even Becca (Quinn McColgan), the de rigueur child traveling alone, looks suspicious at times because when Marks “returned” her Teddy bear as they boarded the plan, she didn’t seem to recognize it. Lots of Hitchcockian MacGuffins!
The performances, especially by Neeson and Moore, solidly add to the doubt cast on Marks and everyone else, and Collet-Serra’s direction plays up the suspense and the trapped feeling of the passengers. However, the script by first-time screenwriters John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle doesn’t always make sense, but their plot twists keep the identity of the terrorist a mystery until nearly the last. The action starts immediately and stays riveting right to the end. Cinematographer Flavio Labiano captures the claustrophobic nature of the airplane even when the action is big, and John Ottman’s music accentuates the tense pace of Jim May’s editing.
Non-stop, a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references, and it runs 106 minutes. Non-Stop in in theaters now. It’s a great diversion!
More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.
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