Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Non-Stop (2014)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

A troubled US  Federal Air Marshal named Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) fights a never ending battle with his demons. Marks lost his wife after a divorce, his job as a police officer, and Marks’ young daughter passed away after a fight with cancer, so Marks succumbed to alcoholism and cigarettes to ease the pain. A frustrated Marks argues with his supervisor before a scheduled flight, but Marks boards the plane with his partner, Jack Hammond (Anson Mount) to start his daily routine.

On the plane, Marks befriends another passenger named Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), but a distributing text message disrupts a peaceful and quiet flight. The anonymous texter delivers a deadly ultimatum: He or she demands a payment of $150,000,000 for ransom, or the anonymous texter will kill a passenger on the plane every twenty minutes.

Marks consults with Jack to devise a strategy, and Marks receives support from the flight crew. Two stewardesses named Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Gwen (Lupita Nyong’o) monitor the passengers, and Marks works with Captain David McMillan (Linus Roache) and his co-pilot Kyle Rice (Jason Butler Harner) to come up with a Plan B and C for worst case scenarios. But Marks runs into some trouble with a few rowdy and suspicious passengers. After an awkward and random question at the airport, Tom Bowen (Scoot McNairy) raises a few red flags, and Zack White (Nate Parker) earns a spot on Marks’ list of suspects.

Bill communicates with a conflicted Agent Marenick (Shea Whigham) through a series of phone calls. But
Marks is running out of time, and the situation takes a drastic turn for the worst, when Marks shoots to the top of the list for suspects. The bank account for the wire transfer is in Marks’ name, and to make matters worse, a select group of passengers work together to plan a hostile takeover to stop Marks after a series of news reports.

A paranoid Marks targets trusted members of his team. Marks suspects Nancy, Jack, Kyle, and Jen for potential candidates, but Marks runs into another dilemma after a startling discovery in the bathroom……

Liam Neeson delivers another solid performance, as the resourceful and cunning hero with deadly combat skills, and Neeson is a believable “broken man” during Bill’s sentimental moments. Julianne Moore is the top pick for standout performances from the supporting cast, with Dockery taking the spot for second place. No real complaints from the overall supporting cast, but screen time rapidly shifts from one character to another during Bill’s search for the culprit, so with exception of Moore (she’s the only passenger, who supported Bill 100%  with no questions asked) and Kyle, the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t receive a consistent amount of screen time. And you won’t actually see Shea Whigham’s face until the final moments of the movie, because Marenick’s screen time is limited to faceless phone calls with Bill, for the most part. 

Non-Stop’s crafty style of finger pointing during the “whodunit” mystery is something to admire. The idea is simple: EVERYONE on the plane is a suspect. Pilots, stewardesses, US marshals, passengers, no exceptions whatsoever. Everyone on the plane is a believable threat, and they’ll keep you guessing until the very end. And kudos to Liam Neeson for his “I’m not the hijacker speech!” at the end. Throughout the movie, Non-Stop does a good job of convincing the audience to believe in the possibility of Bill as the hijacker, and you can sense the hopelessness in Bill for one last chance during his desperate plea.

Bill’s first suspect? Jack. That’s right. Bill catches Jack in the act after a series of suspicious text messages. Jack offers Bill a share of the ransom money, but Bill refuses. Bill fights and kills a combative Jack in the bathroom. Bill searches Jack’s phone to find a series of suggestive texts, and Bill finds Jack’s briefcase with a large bag of cocaine inside.

But there’s one big problem: Jack is not the culprit. Bill murdered the wrong person, and the culprit murders Captain McMillan and another passenger after two twenty minute intervals. Bill survives the passenger revolt, and he convinces the passengers to work with him to capture the culprit.

Remember that briefcase full of cocaine? To add to Bill’s growing list of problems, the culprit hid a bomb in the bag of cocaine, and the bomb will explode in thirty minutes. Bill comes up with a plan to neutralize the detonation, if the bomb explodes, and Bill catches the culprit after a recorded video from one of the passengers.

Tom Bowen reveals himself as a hijacker, and Zack White is his partner. Tom and Zack were US soldiers, who joined the military after September 11, 2001. Tom and Zack used shoddy airport security as motivation to join the military, and they’re framing Bill as the hijacker for their master plan. The Plan? If Bill takes the fall for the hijacking, tighter airport security restrictions in the future will prevent another tragedy, because two US federal air marshals failed in their mission to contain a crisis on their plane.

Luckily, Bill turns the tables on Tom with a gunshot to the head, and Zack suffers a painful death in the explosion. Kyle puts an end to the nightmare with a rough emergency landing in Iceland, and the remaining passengers (including Jen) leave the battered plane. Agent Marenick apologizes for persecuting Bill, and Marenick offers his full support to clear Bill’s name.

That’s it? It’s the best way to describe my reaction to the big twist after it happened. The delusional and deranged patriots twist falls into an indifferent zone for me. I didn’t hate the twist, but when you consider all the teasing, and Bill’s crafty methods for sleuthing, the big twist doesn’t live up to the hype, and it’s a disappointing payoff.

How can you kill someone on a plane, and get away with it? It’s a reoccurring question/theme throughout Non-Stop, but it’s hard to feel any shock value (or lack there of), when Non-Stop finally drops the hammer during the finale with an answer for that question. Also,  Non-Stop’s obvious foreshadowing for Tom as one of the culprits kills any chances for a genuine surprise during the big reveal. Zack as the second hijacker? Yeah, that’s a surprise, but Non-Stop drops one too many hints for Tom as one of the bad guys.

The plot holes for Non-Stop’s twist? Oy vey. The briefcase full of cocaine is the most obvious head-shaking blunder. So let me get this straight. I’m supposed to believe a skilled US Federal Marshal/former police officer is oblivious to a BOMB in a briefcase (remember, Bill found the briefcase during the early stages of the movie)? To make matters worse, Tom or Zack “hid” the bomb under a thin layer of cocaine. I’ll stop here, because I’ll go another six or seven paragraph rant, if I take the time to dissect the plot holes in this twist.

The big reveal is loaded with problems (i.e. massive plot holes), but Non-Stop is a satisfying  mystery/thriller. Yeah, the big twist at the end is a potential roadblock for enjoying Non-Stop, but the ride to the end is full of nail-biting tension, and the thrilling action packed finale is a real treat. I had to know the identity of the hijacker regardless of the outcome, because Non-Stop’s intriguing and thought-provoking mystery is too enticing to ignore.

Rating: 7/10

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