Non Stop

  • A surprisingly tense thriller, Non-Stop is entertaining.
  • Largely thanks to its cast. Liam Neeson is fantastic as Marshal Bill Marks, layering a stock character with intimate performance. Julianne Moore shines as Jen Summers, and so do Corey Stull (Austin Reilly) and Michelle Dockery (Nancy).
  • Director Jaume Collet-Serra makes several compelling choices, including the way he shoots some of Marks’ point of view shots. The director blurs the borders of the frame, leaving us to wonder: is the Marshal focusing, observing his surroundings, taking note of passengers? Or is he zoning out, so stricken with grief and anxiety that he cannot adequately do his job?
  • In several of these moments, Collet-Serra’s audio design is just as effective. He distorts the sound, making it distant, removed, almost as if Marks is under water, a decision that amplifies our uncertainty concerning Marks’ focus.
  • Just as admirable: the director’s ability to heighten tension, mostly by slowing down proceedings, letting Neeson show Bill’s grief and concern, and also giving the audience time to process new developments.
  • In many ways, then, Non-Stop induces our anxiety.
  • Just as it, for the first two acts anyway, sets up a compelling mystery. Who is committing these crimes? How are they avoiding detection? And why are they doing it? The pay-off promises to be rewarding, not least because Collet-Sera and the picture’s three credited writers keep us guessing. Whenever we think they’re revealing the criminal, they add unexpected and sensible twists that further increase our uncertainty.
  • Unfortunately, the filmmakers fumble Non-Stop’s final act. Their reveal is unsatisfying, because the villain’s motivations are underexplained and questionable. As is Marks’ failure to pursue some obvious investigative paths.
  • A trite, emotionally-manipulative ploy involving Becca (Quinn McColgan) doesn’t help either.
  • Ditto that for Non-Stop’s limited thematic application to viewers’ lives. It attempts to be a statement on national security, but falls short.
  • Still, Collet-Serra and his writers develop their characters just well-enough to make us care about them.
  • And they create a tense atmosphere that sparks our interest.
  • Facts that are enough to make Non-Stop worth viewing.
  • Final Grade: C+

33 thoughts on “Non-Stop

  1. Pretty much agreed; I’m not actually convinced there’s a sensible way to end a story with such a labyrinthine, intricate plot on the part of the bad guys, so the third act silliness felt more inevitable than disappointing for me. Good stuff.

  2. A very just review. I was . . .taken. . . .by surprise by how good this was, actually. (See what I did just there?) And glad to see it got you a little too, and it fell down on you where it did for me. I was very annoyed by the big reveal. Still, i think it doesn’t do so much damage so as to kill the experience overall, I might watch this again as a rental someday.

    • I feel exactly the same. Your positive review of it, along with some others, is why I opted to even give this shot. I expected it to be wretched and so has no intent of seeing it. I too was quite surmised that it is actually pretty good.

    • The negative reviews are from folks who do not do a critic’s job properly. Film is primarily a form of entertainment! So unless it has no redeemable qualities and the vast majority cannot gain enjoyment out of it, I think it is silly to give something a review that discourages others from watching it. Non-Stop is one of these films that is a fun time despite not being excellent! Point out its flaws? Hell yeah. Reveal that it has a stupid conclusion? Hell yeah. But say that is not worth a watch? *Rubbish*.

      The audience will leave happy 9/10 times with this one!

      • Honestly, I think there is probably some room for people to, on balance, dislike this. I’m not personally one of those individuals, but I do think it fails to accomplish some of its primary objectives, whether or not it is entertaining. Some people, I think, will weigh the importance of such failures differently.

      • That I agree on! It is fine to dislike something personally. I was referring to the reviews of it that say, “STAY AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE”, or stuff along those lines:) I feel that it is just discouraging folks who may actually enjoy it!

  3. Haven’t seen this yet but it seems to be getting very mediocre reviews. But I remember Taken getting panned when it was originally released and that has become something of a cult favorite…particular as Liam Neeson “action man” status has grown…

    • I have actually never seen Taken (or its sequels), but this is entertaining enough. It’s not great, by any means, but it keeps the tension rolling and serves as above average fluff entertainment.

      I would run out to see it as soon as you can, but it’s good enough that you needn’t actively avoid it either.

    • She was good. I don’t think she was special, per se, but she managed the role without hiccup.

      And I expected worse from this, too. It still isn’t great, but it is fun.

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