Sunday, June 15, 2014

DVD Review: Non-Stop

The film was released to theatres last February and is now on DVD. I'm putting in plenty of spoilers so if you've not seen this film and you want to be surprised, don't read any further.

Liam Neeson must be basing his career on playing failed fathers who are law enforcement or ex-law enforcement officers. In the 2008 film Taken (which I didn't review here), he also played a "fallen cop" who was on the outs with his daughter but who, though the action of the film, managed to redeem himself. In Non Stop (2014), Neeson plays Bill Marks, an ex-NYPD officer fired after falling into despondency over the cancer death of his eight-year old daughter nearly ten years before. He's somehow managed to become a U.S. Air Marshall who's not doing so well as evidenced by his drinking and smoking habits.

Just another routine flight to London but of course, it doesn't stay that way.

Boarding the plane, he meets a little girl named Becca (Quinn McColgan) who is traveling alone to visit her father (no mention of her mother or other circumstances are given), which is the set up for Mark's redemption during the climax of the film.

The other most notable player is Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), the woman with a fetish for the window seat and who has something of a mysterious past.

Once airborne, Marks receives a text message from someone claiming to be one of the passengers. He (she?) wants $150 million transferred into an account or the texter will kill a person on board every twenty minutes.

Jack Hammond (Anson Mount), the other Air Marshall on the flight, thinks it's a hoax but Marks wants to notify the flight crew.

In an ironic twist, at the end of twenty minutes, Marks is the one who carries out the killing by defending himself when Hammond pulls a gun on Marks. That pushed credibility over the edge since the hijacker/terrorist had to have been able to manipulate both men with amazing precision. What if Marks had simply knocked Hammond unconscious? What if Hammond had shot Marks? No, the movie wouldn't continue with Hammond as the Marshall trying to stop the terrorist, Marks was the target all along. The account the money was supposed to be transferred into is in Marks' name.

Marks starts pulling together people he thinks he can trust (but can he?) in an effort to find who on board is texting him.

I wrote off the Arab/Muslim doctor early on as too obvious and discounted one of the terrorists (that's right, another twist, there's more than one) when Marks actually accused him of being in on the plot and taped his hands together (Marks carries a small roll of duct tape on him so he can cover the smoke detector in the plane's bathroom and have a quiet cigarette).

Next, the pilot dies by apparent poisoning leaving only the co-pilot to fly the aircraft (no engineer on board like in other "air disaster" movies).

In another twenty minutes, someone else is going to die and Marks' life and reputation unravels with each passing minute. Finally, no one trusts him except Jen, not his bosses at TSA, not the co-pilot, and not the passengers, who eventually see a news feed accusing Marks of hijacking the plane.

In the middle of all this, Marks discovers, thanks to the hijacker's texting, that Hammond was smuggling a large amount of cocaine in his brief case (Marshalls can just walk through security, no questions asked). He also finds a bomb. Apparently the hijackers never intended to leave the plane alive and it was never about the money...or so Marks believes.

Marks becomes (apparently) more unstable, announcing he's the Air Marshall on board, even after the co-pilot, under orders from TSA, takes Marks' badge and gun (Marks takes Hammond's credentials and gun shortly afterward), searching the passengers and reviewing their texts, including an off-duty NYPD officer. Unbeknownst to Marks, another passenger (not a hijacker) has been taking videos of Marks' actions and sending them back home, and they end up on the news, fueling the belief that Marks himself is hijacking the aircraft.

The co-pilot is ordered to make an emergency landing in Iceland and is escorted by two fighter jets. Marks is attacked and overcome by a number of the passengers who fear that Marks is going to kill them all by crashing the aircraft in a "9/11" type of terrorist attack.

By telling the passengers about the bomb and finally confessing his various failings as cop, father, and human being, he restores his credibility enough to regain some trust.

The video clips taken of him, once Marks finds out about them, give him the clues he needs to find out who one of the terrorists are but he neglects the other until it's too late.

Marks has placed the bomb at the rear of the aircraft and told the co-pilot to descend to 8000 feet to give the plane and passengers the maximum possibility of survival when it goes off (unlike other, similar films, no one on board can disarm the bomb). The fighter escort refuse to allow the descent into civilian airspace, but with only minutes left until the explosion, the co-pilot risks being shot out of the sky and sends the plane into a nose dive.

Speaking of 9/11 (major spoiler here), the two men who are hijacking the plane are ex-military who want to give America a lesson in how TSA anti-terrorist activities are a joke and there is no security. For one of them, it was also about surviving by parachuting (apparently, though I never saw any chutes) from the plane and collecting the money which was transferred into the designated account.

However the other terrorist is a martyr and plans for no survivors. For him, it was never about the money. It was about sending a message.

All hell breaks loose as the plane dives, the bomb explodes, and a gunfight takes place between Marks and the two hijackers.

Marks, of course, is the only one of the three who live through the shooting, but as the plane attempts to land, it starts falling apart in mid-air. A section next to Becca breaks off and Marks and Jen struggle to keep her from being pulled from the aircraft.

As expected they succeed in saving Becca from death, which redeems Marks since this is one little girl he can save. The plane lands more or less in one piece, the fighters never get the order to shoot the plane down (almost a moot point since it nearly crashes anyway), and Marks is publicly vindicated of hijacking and is announced to be the hero.

Nice action film with some interesting twists (I didn't specifically reveal the identities of the hijackers so you'll have to see the movie for that piece). I'm sure real pilots and Air Marshalls, as well as anyone familiar with networking, watching this film picked it apart over the various technical errors. However, if you put those to one side, it's a very watchable film. The ending is more or less predictable, but enough mystery, tension, and action is present to hold the audience's attention for the 106 minutes of running time.

The major plot hole I spotted was the level of information the two hijackers possessed on both Air Marshalls. I'm sure it wasn't hard to figure out Marks' past and his obvious alcohol abuse, but how the heck did they know about Hammond and his cocaine unless Hammond was in on it? That's the only explanation since the bomb was hidden in the cocaine, but Hammond was set up to be the first death on board. The film could have been about fifteen minutes longer so it could have the time to explain why any of this was happening and what would prompt Hammond and the two terrorist to commit such heinous crimes, fleshing out the characterization a bit more.

I don't think it was worth the amount of money I'd have had to spend to see this film in the theatre, but it was a good DVD selection.

1 comment:

  1. It's not a very smart movie, but it is fun for what it is. Good review.