There is something rather compelling about action films set on aircraft. The claustrophobic confinement and obvious dangers of guns, de-compressions and – erm – gravity naturally add to the sense of peril. Examples of the genre are Air Force One, Passenger 57, United 93, Airport 77/79/etc. and (at the ridiculous end of the spectrum) Snakes On A Plane. Some films in this category try to mix the action with a mystery plot (Jodie Foster’s Flightpath was a case in point), although after the real-life mystery of the Malaysian Airline Flight 370 jet in recent weeks no film drama could hope to compete. Non-Stop tries to join both of these sub- genres by wrapping a mystery into an action film. It largely fails in the former and partially succeeds in the latter.
Plot-wise, Non-Stop is arrant nonsense. Liam Neeson – the go-to action hero of the hour – plays Air Marshall Bill Marks: a chain-smoking alcoholic, with a tragic family past, who is the last person you would trust to wave a gun around on a flight. Bill Marks boards a London-bound ‘Aqualantic’ flight (REALLY? Would you REALLY want to link a transatlantic airline brand with water?). Mid-Atlantic Marks is sent messages on his secure Air Marshall network (clearly not THAT secure) from someone on the plane threatening to kill someone every 20 minutes until they are paid 150 million dollars into an offshore account. It emerges that Marks is either the terrorist himself (the account is in his name) or is being set up by someone to appear to be the terrorist. A chief suspect would appear to be one of Mark’s fellow passengers in business class, played by Julianne Moore: someone living life to the full with a big scar on her chest and with nothing to lose. As the body count rises, questions arise as to who the terrorist is, why they are they doing it, how they are doing it, who will be murdered next and – most importantly – does any of this make any sense at all?
Liam Neeson is in “Taken” mode and as personable and effective as always. Michelle Dockery (of “Downton Abbey”) plays air stewardess Nancy, and the film is also notable for featuring Lupita Nyong’o as another of the stewardesses, before her breakout recognition in “12 Years a Slave” (one assumes that the Oscar judges voted before seeing this).
Whilst the plot was nonsense – leaving more open questions than answers – it was quite enjoyable nonsense, and I should add that my wife absolutely loved it (although it should also be pointed out that Air Force One is her favourite film!). I have to confess that I found the ending uproariously funny. No spoilers, but in a number of scenes the classic lines from “Airplane!” leapt unhindered into my head: specifically “Auntie M – It’s a Twister, It’s a Twister”; “I just want to say Good Luck, we’re all counting on you” and Robert Stack’s post-crash speech to Ted Striker.
Popcorn fun – but not a classic.
Fad Rating: FFF.