½*/**** Image A Sound A Extras D
starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Anson Mount
screenplay by John W. Richardson & Chris Roach and Ryan Engle
directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
by Walter Chaw Furthering the all-signs-point-to-yes idea that the greatest threat to national security is an ill-informed white guy with a grudge of some kind, Jaume Collet-Serra's execrable Non-Stop is the latest stop on the Liam Neeson winsome-badass tour. In this one, he plays alcoholic air marshal Bill Marks, grieving the death of his daughter and about to get one last chance to make right with the universe. At this point, it's fair to ask if Neeson is exploiting the tragic loss of wife Natasha Richardson for added gravitas in shit like this or genuinely drawn to these roles from an insensate expression of pain. Whatever the case, as this is not much different in feel and quality from his soon-to-be-completed Taken trilogy, it might be time for him to find a different agent. Lucky for Bill, sharing the fateful flight essayed in the film is an adorable moppet he can pretend is a version of his daughter and save from death, as well as a middle-aged but exactly-attractive-enough woman, Jen (Julianne Moore), he can pretend is the mother of his dead kid and quasi fall in love with. It's all so gratifyingly tidy.
Also on board Flight "Redemption by Third Act" are a terrorist plot-point and an Arab-guy red herring (Omar Metwally, who is half-Egyptian, which is better than the usual Maori or Hispanic playing Arab) who turns out to be a neurosurgeon! He saves lives, what'd you think? Racist. Via a secure Federal Air Marshal text network, Bill is informed that someone will kill someone else on the plane every twenty minutes until a large sum of money is deposited into an account in Bill's own name. Because Bill is a drunk with anger-management issues, no one has faith in his innocence, so he's forced to Take the Law Into His Own Hands™ and start shaking down the passengers, including corpse-like British flight attendant Nancy ("Downton Abbey"'s Michelle Dockery) and her absolute afterthought of a co-worker, played by Oscar™-winner Lupita Nyong'o. Non-Stop is an opportunistic film that's about six months behind relevant casting, in other words, and I'm struggling, only a few minutes after watching it, to separate giant chunks of it from movies just like it. Many of them starring Neeson, even.
There are fistfights, gunfights, arguments, Neeson luring a little girl out of a cabinet with a piece of ribbon, and a bomb. None of it is very exciting, because I had a tough time believing there were any stakes. There's a political statement concerning bad wars that the United States has gotten into lately, but not so much about the Patriot Act and stuff. Frankly, Non-Stop isn't about anything I could puzzle out except for our natural empathy for Neeson and the pull we feel towards him because he's a magnetic personality slumming in hairshirts like this for too long now. For what it's worth, Moore matches Neeson, mark-for-mark, going through the whole exercise like the seasoned pro she is and probably excusing it all as an opportunity to work with her Chloe co-star again and, what the hell, pay the mortgage for a couple more years.
Tough-talking, violence-prone Bill seemingly violates countless civil liberties, yet none of it matters, since we know there's a malefactor and torture is popular public policy, anyway. It turns out that one of the travellers he abuses the most egregiously is actually guilty--no matter that a background check elides critical information. Non-Stop isn't much fun, doesn't provide the "heart-pounding" its pull-quotes promise, and certainly isn't interested in playing fair. Also not well-explained is how the baddies carry off one of the murders, given its very specific locked-room scenario, though I'm willing to concede that I was bored enough by then to have missed the explanation--and I'm not nearly dedicated enough to go back to check. There's an opportunity to do something clever with this whole mess, and for a while I thought they were trying to pull off an airborne Identity, but alas. Non-Stop is destined for its own TNT loop into basic-cable eternity. My shoulders are exhausted from all the shrugging.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Universal gives the picture a pristine 2.40:1, 1080p presentation that looks as fresh as a load of spring laundry. Non-Stop was shot on film, in Super35, and has a steely perfection on Blu-ray. The palette is mostly a contemporary cliché of teal and muted flesh tones, but the grain structure was handsomely preserved in the DI. Dynamic range is excellent, and there's no hint of digital artifacting in the transfer proper. Crisp and robust, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is likewise state of the art and genre; my only complaint is that its clarity allows you to hear all of the dialogue. As for special features, "Non-Stop Action" (6 mins., HD) is a nothing sort of thing that reveals the production built a set to look like the interior of an airplane, then shot the movie inside it. A tiny bit about the bathroom fight scene offers no mention of how this has been done so many times now that it's not nearly as innovative as they would have you believe. Neeson and Moore contribute the standard junket soundbites. "Suspense at 40,000 ft" (8 mins., HD) is more of the same: Cast and crew (including producer Joel Silver) talk about one another and the project in excessively glowing terms. Someone mentions that Neeson is "6'20"," which distracted me briefly as I did the math of how tall he's saying Neeson is. I was grateful for the diversion. WiFi-connected players will download "fresh" trailers automatically upon insertion of the disc, which comes with DVD and Digital copies of the film.