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Non-Stop (2014) juts disbelief into worthy suspense

Photo Credit: Non-Stop / Universal Pictures
Non-Stop is one of those action flicks that deserves a much cohesive constructed trailer. Upon seeing the teaser a few months ago, I honestly felt like it was just going to be a laughable good time - one liners, all fingers pointed to Julianne Moore, and oh yeah Liam Neeson saves everyone. In some desperate need to just see anything, I took a chance and I was surprised by how much it belonged in the special echelon of films that you didn't actually expect to be good but was.

A despondent alcoholic U.S. Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) is threatened via text mid-flight over the Atlantic Ocean - he must wire $150 million dollars to a specified bank account or passengers will be killed every twenty minutes.

Okay, so the story itself is a bit non-believable. However, once you're strapped on board to this crazy two-hour flight ride it actually becomes immersive.

The film manages to squeeze suspense at every turn making you guess who the bad guy is. Its script is as good as its cast; never making a made-for-tv experience out of the story nor pretending it's the best thriller script in decades. With today's constantly shortening attention span, it's quite the feat for probably most audiences to be held in one place for the entire duration and only a small set of characters to focus on (i.e. Rope, The Odd Couple, 12 Angry Men). Yet the plot and script successfully lead you to suspect every one of the supporting characters only to be proven wrong. Almost every half hour or so, a new twist comes along making you question what is going on.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra does an entertaining job well done by upgrading the typical hostage-bribe crisis into the text-happy age - allowing us to see texts pop on screen, words being almost auto-corrected, and jut along with airplane turbulence. Wherein other thrillers, technology is utilized as complicated gadgetry that somehow saves the protagonist last second from being decimated, Non-Stop goes the sensible route by making cellphones the characters friend and foe. They were small creative details that added ante to the chaos.

Perhaps it was the refreshing aspect that the cast isn't front-page headline celebrities - Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris), and Lupita N'yongo (12 Years A Slave).  Personally, I recognized them but it wasn't an obstacle to prevent playing into the premise. Besides Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in the main roles (and I believe Moore was tremendously miscast), fresh faces added to the believability it's striving for.

Where the film experiences the most turbulence is the third act. I'm not someone who usually pegs the villain, but I wasn't surprised nor necessarily pleased with who the final offender turned out to be. The script turns its blockbuster-feel into a thriller with a deeper message, and I didn't feel that any of it truly belonged. This may be felt differently through your lens - if you can identify who is or isn't the villain. While the ultimate offenders' revelation was disappointing, the experience is not enough to make me want to avoid watching this again. At first glance, I wouldn't know how Non-Stop s succeeds as well as it does. Yet the film manages to deliver genuine mystery. The suspenseful ride you're on doesn't seem so completely absurd. And, honestly who doesn't like enjoying Liam Neeson kick ass and take names?

Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen Non-Stop? What did you think of Non-Stop?

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