Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenwriters: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle
Runtime: 106 mins.
Australian release date: 27 February 2014
If Hollywood is anything to go by, taking a US commercial flight is not for the faint-hearted these days, especially if you think back to Denzel Washington’s alcoholic pilot in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight and now this latest ‘air-scare-fare’, Non-Stop, from Catalan director Jaume Collet-Serra. In this case, the man with the drug & booze problem is air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), who seems to be in no fit state to manage security on his assigned NYC to London flight; what takes place on this journey is enough to make you want to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. What is even more alarming though, in an age where security is vital and terrorism a constant threat, is the apparent lack of drug and alcohol screening of the employees responsible for the safety and welfare of passengers. Let’s hope it’s artistic license in this case!
After an initial game of musical chairs, Marks ends up seated next to an attractive business woman, Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), who is chatty, but evasive about her business. The only thing we learn early on is that she flies often and has no fear of it, unlike Marks - as the plane takes off she has to calm him down as it is obvious he is going through a white-knuckle experience despite his frequent flying. Once they’re cruising at 40,000 feet, he receives an anonymous, and ominous, text message demanding that a ransom of $150 million be paid into a numbered account or someone on board will die every 20 minutes until the demand is fulfilled. As Marks frantically goes through the flight manifesto while trying not to alarm the passengers, the plot starts to go into over-drive. Much of the remaining time is spent on a Hitchcockian roller-coaster ride as the burnt-out air marshal endeavours to get to the source of the text messages, all the while dealing with his own inner demons.
Non-Stop is a real adrenaline rush at first and the fact that one is observing the drama from the comfort of a cinema seat does not diminish the terror. Initially, the script keeps you guessing and the mix of passengers, who all seem potentially guilty, keeps you intrigued. Even the flight attendants, Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Gwen (Lupita Nyong’o), come under suspicion; no-one can be trusted on this flight. Regrettably, as the main suspects are eliminated, both figuratively and literally, the writers start to cast their net wider and wider in the hope of snagging a feasible explanation for all this mayhem, but all they manage to catch are red herrings. And these fish leave a very unsatisfying taste in the mouth!
Neeson gives a pretty solid performance considering the situation he is in enters the realm of the absurd as it moves towards its conclusion. However, with a tense score by Edwin Wendler and some pretty amazing special effects, backed up by a strong supporting cast, Non-Stop should do reasonable business at the box office, but see it at the cinema - it’s unlikely that it will ever make it onto an in-flight entertainment program!