While it’s on the ground, Jaume Collet-Serra’s thriller Non-Stop has the average intelligence of a Liam Neesonaction flick. After takeoff however, the airplane hijacking film rapidly ascends into stupidity until it reaches cruising altitude, where it degenerates into a moronic movie riddled with plot holes, before hastily crashing and burning.
Collet-Serra introduces his lead character U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks (Neeson), by establishing that he’s an exhausted alcoholic with a sad daughter back story. Oddly two of these three aspects remain relevant to his character, yet one does not. While Marks reluctantly preps for a flight to London, Collet-Serra uses slow motion, close-ups of Neeson’s bloodshot eyes, and a soft focus to show how tired he is. Given the investment Collet-Serra makes in expressing our hero’s lack of rest, it’s bizarre that he largely abandons the idea for the rest of Non-Stop.
Prior to boarding the plane, the camera assumes Marks’s perspective as he identifies “suspicious” individuals in the airport terminal. The only thing actually “wrong” about these seemingly untrustworthy folks though, is that they look ethnic. Since the movie later shows these same people acting heroic, it tries to disprove racial profiling. But after we discover who is terrorizing the flight, the film suddenly supports racial profiling. Mixed messages like this are one of several baffling aspects about Non-Stop.
Not long after Marks gets in the air, his trip takes a terrifying turn when he receives text messages demanding a massive ransom. If he can’t deliver it, the texts threaten that a new passenger will die every 20 minutes. Marks tries to catch the culprit; however he’s not fast enough to stop the first couple of passengers from meeting their maker. Can he rally to save everyone else and nab the hijacker though?
Probably the biggest plot hole in Non-Stop is that despite his law enforcement and military background, Marks isn’t a smart investigator. He panics easily and lacks common sense. Marks also overlooks obvious clues to the hijacker’s identity which he would have noticed much faster if he was thorough and calm. And because Marks is such an ineffective foil, the hero/villain relationship lacks punch. Instead of a game of cat and mouse, their tete-a-tete is more like a cat and a dumber animal such as a bird, with the villain acting as the feline for most of the picture.
Another illogical element of Non-Stop is the hijacker’s plot to frame Marks, something both the passengers and Marks’s supervisor accept too easily. Non-Stop’s writers even try to convince you that he might be involved, something that comes off as far-fetched. However the true culmination of nonsense is the end, when the hijacker’s identity is finally revealed. Sadly by the time that happens, you don’t get a chance to understand the villain’s motivation before bullets and one-liners start flying. All you get is a hurried speech you can barely comprehend over the torrent airplane disaster sounds.
Non-Stop could have been fun since Jaume Collet-Serra managed to rescue his previous Liam Neeson thriller Unknown from plot holes by employing breakneck action. But his directing can’t save this film from its own idiocy, a kind that makes the Wesley Snipes hijacking flick Passenger 57 seem smart by comparison. The plus side: now that Collet-Serra has done two confusing Liam Neeson flicks, if he does a third, we can probably create a new subgenre: The Confused Neeson. That would at least be entertaining for film scholars to discuss, don’t you think?