Thursday, March 13, 2014

Movie Review: ‘Non-Stop’ - Can’t Escape Thoughts of Flight MH370

First appeared on Blogcritics.

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Even if the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had not occurred, Liam Neeson’s new thriller Non-Stop would have been an unsettling film going experience. In a post 9-11 world, the thought of hijackers taking over airliners is upsetting and all too reminiscent of that day; however, in light of the missing plane that left Kuala Lumpur and never made it to Beijing, the film is difficult to view without connecting it to this yet unresolved story.

Neeson seems to be the reigning action king in recent years with his Taken films and the unforgettable The Grey. In this one he plays world weary alcoholic Bill Marks, formerly of the NYPD who is now an air marshal who is obviously facing some personal demons. He finds himself on a flight from New York to London with an unseen hijacker on board who keeps texting him. The hijacker warns that a passenger will die every twenty minutes unless $150 million is deposited into a Swiss bank account.

Of course, this becomes an increasingly difficult situation for Mills as people start dying and the passengers and crew turn to him for answers. Since I’ve explained the basic premise, I must say that revealing too much more of the plot even early in the film would involve spoilers, so I am not going to divulge much more. The cast is solid with Julianne Moore as a passenger who won’t give up until she gets a window seat. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and Michelle Dockery (Downtown Abbey) are two flight attendants who help Mills in his efforts, and Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) plays a fellow air marshal who may or may not be there to help Mills out.

non stop 1Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown; Orphan) handles the action in the claustrophobic airliner effectively, and builds credible tension as time increasingly becomes a factor, not only for the passengers dying one-by-one, but also for the fate of the plane itself. When Neeson and another passenger battle in one of the plane’s bathrooms, we get what is probably the best close quarters fight scene since James Bond (Sean Connery) fought villain Grant (Robert Shaw) in the train compartment in From Russia With Love.

Neeson puts in a strong turn as Marks, whose demons are not only explained as the film unfolds but seem to work to his advantage as he is pitted against the enemy on board. Unfortunately, what is happening on MH370 is a real life thriller, and it seems that whatever happened on board that plane we can assume that things took a decidedly bad turn - one that may not be resolved as deftly as cinematic conventions allow.

Non-Stop fulfills the usual action film expectations, and Neeson is always a pleasure to watch. I think the average movie-goer will enjoy the experience; however, I don’t think anyone can see this film and not have flight MH370 in mind as it unfolds. Small details will become magnified for the viewer and, with each new plot twist, you can’t help but thinking, “Maybe that’s what happened up there.”

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Honestly, all the while I was watching the film I kept thinking of the real world Malaysian plane. The hijacking set-up in the film seems now even more compellingly possible since MH370 went off the grid, and I came to understand that with determined people in place we cannot be sure what can happen up there on any plane at any given time. As you leave the theater after seeing this film, perhaps that will be the scariest thing you will take away with you.

Photo credits: imdb, national post,

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