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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

When it rains it pours.


Plot Overview

Through the rain-fogged window of an SUV we observe a sad sack in his cups pouring him­self one for the road as a radio news station intones: “We can­not make you safe” (from terrorists.) He takes a call from his employer (“I'm fine”), grouses about his London assign­ment, and boards British Atlantic Flight 10 (“Here you go, sir, enjoy the flight.”)

William (Bill) Marks (Liam Neeson) is a U.S. Federal Air Marshal in whose shaky hands rests the safety of pas­sen­gers and crew of a 767 air­liner on this six hour flight to London. He'd recently lost his little girl to cancer, got divorced by his wife, lost his detective position with the NYPD, and suc­cumbed to alcohol­ism. He is ter­rif­ied of take­offs (“I hate flying”) but relaxes with an illegal smoke in the john after the plane is aloft.

Well, he tries to relax, but a text message he receives precludes that, so he puts his head together with fellow air marshal Jack Ham­mond (Anson Mount) and tells him, “Some­one on this flight is threat­ening to kill some­one every 20 minutes, unless $150 million is trans­ferred to this account number.” Jack treats it as a joke (“We're mid­way across the Atlantic. How do you kill some­one in a crowded plane and get away with it?”), the pilot Captain David McMillan (Linus Roache) adopts a wait-and-see attitude, Bill's superiors on terra firma decide in their wisdom that it's Bill trying to extort the money him­self, and the passengers think he's lost it (“I'm not hijacking this plane. I'm trying to save it!”) The situ­ation only deterior­ates from there (“Agent Marks, our fighter squad has you in our sights.”)


There is a set of sentiments that plays out in films from time to time—Holly­wood recycles the same themes—most elegantly expressed in a well known poem—actu­ally a psalm—and here exhibited in an abstract style. Let's start with the poem:

                           Psalm 127

         Except the LORD build the house, they labour in
           vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city,
           the watchman waketh but in vain.

         It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up
           late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth
           his beloved sleep.

         Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and
           the fruit of the womb is his reward.

         As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so
           are children of the youth.

         Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of
           them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall
           speak with the enemies in the gate.

This pictures a man who is a carpenter by day and moonlights as a night watch­man. He's got his priorities all wrong; or at least they aren't godly. Rather than be a work­a­holic, he should spend time with his wife at home, make some babies, and they'll grow up to leave a mark in the world. At least that's God's design.

There's a straightforward application of Psalm 127 which I developed in my review of “Delivery Man,” but “Non-Stop” rearranges the pieces. In this movie Bill meta­phoric­ally “eats the bread of sorrows” through his emotional suffering (“This is a bad time for me.”) It is another worker on the plane who moon­lights as a courier of contra­band (“I needed the money.”) And it is a sub­sti­tute stew­ardess Gwen (Lupita Nyong'o) who is working a double shift and doesn't know if she can stay awake the whole flight. It's a dis­gruntled vet who having fought for his country laments that nothing works the way it should (“Control is an illusion. There is no control over any­thing” & “Security is this country's big­gest lie.”) And another passenger invokes their dependence on God (“My God! We're all gonna die.”) This is all but a rear­range­ment of the first two stanzas (verses) of the poem (psalm.)

Making babies is the provence of a couple in the row behind Bill's, having sex on an air­plane while every­one's asleep. Bill although he considers him­self to have been a bad father, never­the­less demon­strates good fathering skills when encouraging a little girl Becca (Quinn McColgan) to boldly step forward on this her first flight. Instead of the baton passing to a new gener­ation, we have command of the ship passing to co-pilot Kyle Rice (Jason Butler Harner) who upon entering civilian air­space “speaks with the enemies in the gate” (“Fuck it”) and does quit him­self well.

The plot here is an abstract version of Psalm 127. What can I say? It's art.

Production Values

“Non-Stop” (2014) was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It was written by John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, and Ryan Engle. It stars Liam Neeson in the lead role while other actors include: Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong'o, Shea Whigham, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, and Anson Mount. Neeson despite his advancing years still milks for all it's worth the type of beleag­uered action character he'd played before, say in “Taken 2”. Good actors, worth their salt, were used in even the minor parts. Julianne Moore, of course, did her usual out­standing job, here as a sympathetic ally.

The plot requires a modicum of suspension of disbelief; if you're a stickler for plausi­bility, you may be disappointed. The camera work, how­ever, is first rate. The air­plane's interior seems spacious enough to accommodate all the activity that occurs, and even the bath­room fight scene wasn't too squeezed together. The external air­plane CGI may have left some­thing to be desired, but the way objects moved around inside as the plane maneuvered seemed all too realistic. The best trick was the texting that got flashed on a pseudo Head-Up Display (HUD) over­laying the movie. The texting words were typed speeded up from how fast they could have been tapped in with one hand. The music was good, especially during the intro­duction.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

This movie would lend itself very well to a little game. Try to observe all the passengers and crew, being alert for any­thing suspicious while disregarding appearances that would cause you to categorize them according to race or religion or ethnicity. Compare how well you did to the marshal Bill who is handicapped having a bad hair day.

“Non-Stop” was well paced, had the requisite number of action scenes, made you care for the characters, and had a nail-biting finish. I wouldn't recommend it for an in-flight movie if you suffer from acro­phobia. For good action enter­tain­ment, though, it fits the bill.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed.

Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years.

Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening.

Special effects: Well done special effects.

Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.