Film: "Non-Stop"; Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong'o, Omar Metwally, Jason Butler Harner, Linus Roache, Shea Whigham and Anson Mount; Director: Jaume Collet-Serra; Rating: *** - formulaic tense drama.
"Non-Stop" is a formulaic suspense thriller about a plot to hijack an airplane.
The film begins in a very staid ambiguous manner with Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) gulping whisky in the car park before entering the airport premises. A clue to his state of mind is directed through the photograph of a little girl adorning his dashboard. He seems to be in a state of disarray, threatening his boss and snapping at strangers.
The unsteady camera follows him. It meanders, capturing random action of passengers till it finally settles into the aircraft, a British transatlantic flight from New York to London.
In the aircraft, Bill is shown to have take-off jitters. He is so stressed and panicky that he wraps a good-luck ribbon around his palm and the woman sitting next to him, Jen Summers (Julianne Moore) has to calm him down during take-off.
But once the flight is in mid-air, Bill's body language changes, he enters the toilet, masks the smoke detectors. The narration gets intriguing. He settles on the WC to have a puff but before that he displays his ace Air Marshall" badge and gun.
And, while he is puffing, he receives a text on his mobile phone. "Are you ready to do your duty Marshall?" Surprised, he thinks it's a prank since he is on a secured network.
But gradually, the text messages turn threatening. "I am going to kill one of the passengers in 20 minutes, unless, $150 million is wired to a bank account", and then a number is displayed.
Bill dutifully informs the pilot and looks around at suspicious passengers.
Then with the help of a flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Julianne Moore, whose character has curiously managed to bag a seat right next to Marks in first class, draw up a list of suspects which includes; a rude bald man, an obvious Muslim doctor, a weirdo with glasses and a few more. Whoever the tormentor is, he knows something about Bill and definitely knows his way about.
Progressively, someone does expire, and another after that. It also turns out that the bank account is in Bill's name. As the plot thickens, the trick card played by screenplay writers John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle point the finger of guilt directly at Bill, who is supposedly on board to protect the passengers from any such culprit.
It's the guessing game that makes the plot tick. Our suspicion oscillates back and forth until things come to a head in an explosive finale which is not only heartwarming but also preposterous.
Liam Neeson at 61 seems too jaded to play an Air Marshall, but his backstory gives him enough scope to emote and camouflage this, thereby giving him the lost-to-the-world looks. He is agile and manages to sparkle within the limited space of the aircraft.
Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery along with all the other suspects give a decent performance.
Lupita Nyong'o, after a brilliant performance in "12 Years A Slave" is wasted in this film as an irrelevant air hostess.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra along with director of photography Flavio Labiano and production designer Alexander Hammond expertly manages to hold your attention in the tense staged drama. The criminal's cryptic text messages layered on to a series of lingering shots of passengers and crew makes an exciting visual experience.
Overall, the logic for the devious plot is wafer thin. This, coupled with the misleading start, pulls "Non-Stop" notches down the viewing scale.