Non-Stop (2014)

*. The opening shot reveals the morose face of Bill the U.S. Air Marshal (Liam Neeson) through the windshield of his car. This is the contemporary (as of 2014) action hero as grey veteran. Wounded. Vulnerable. But only on the inside. He’s still tough as nails and pretty much a superman.
*. Bill is a burned-out case and has taken to drink. On his flight from New York to London he will be tested by a terrorist who has, for some obscure reason, developed an enormously complicated plan involving killing passengers one-by-one before threatening to blow the whole plane out of the sky.
*. I won’t tell you what the plot involves. Not because I don’t want to spoil it (it does that well enough on its own, and anyway I don’t care about spoilers), but because it would take too long to explain and even then I’m not sure it would make any sense. I mean, I’m still not sure what role the other air marshal on the plane had to play. What was going on there? In any event, I like how the news reporter at the end calls it “an unbelievable twist.” At least they gave us a wink.
*. As I was watching I was intrigued by the possibility that Bill might really be a terrorist, suffering the law enforcement version of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. That would have been interesting. And been more believable than what we find out is really going on. I mean, using a blowpipe to fire poison darts at people? That’s from Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds (U.S. title Death in the Air). And it was less ridiculous in Christie’s story!
*. If you’re not into reading Agatha Christie novels — and, if you’re watching Non-Stop, you probably aren’t — then you can see this as just a remake of Passenger 57, or any other classic Hollywood action movie from that era. Producer Joel Silver is best known for having done the Lethal Weapon series and the first two Die Hard films, and basically Non-Stop is more of the same with CGI.
*. Silver figured there would have to be a sequel, but he didn’t want it to be set on a plane. You do have to mix these things up a bit. As it happened, Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra would soon reunite for The Commuter, which is almost this same exact movie, right down to the laughable plot, set on a train.
*. So it’s all very silly, but in a familiar way. I was expecting the ending to be a rabbit pulled out of a hat and it sure was. But getting to the end was, if not a lot of fun, at least entertaining enough. The hero is no longer a figure interested in self-sacrifice but is rather someone seeking his own redemption, which is effected in a clumsy way at the end as he gets to save a surrogate daughter. This is meant to make us feel good. At least good enough to want to see it all over again a few years later.

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