Friday, February 28, 2014

Liam Neeson Airplane Thriller NON-STOP Never Starts To Get Very Suspenseful

Opening today at a multiplex near you:

NON-STOP (Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra, 2014)

For a film called NON-STOP, this new Liam Neeson airplane-set thriller starts slowly, and then has many rough draggy patches.

Continuing his recent career transformation into an aging action hero, Neeson stars here as an alcoholic air marshal on a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, who gets an anonymous text from somebody on board saying that unless $150 million is transferred into a secured account, they're "going to kill someone on this plane every 20 minutes." 

Despite having hit the bottle before the flight, Neeson does what he can to take control of the situation. Our gruff protagonist first suspects the other air marshal on board (Anson Mount), but it turns out he's being blackmailed by the same mysterious texter for smuggling cocaine, and a violent  scuffle in the men's room results in the film's first casuality - right at the 20 minute mark.

The gruff sweaty Neeson tries to keep this on the down low, but everyone around him, including Julianne Moore as a concerned seat-mate, and Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery as a nervous flight attendant, know something horribly wrong is going on.

Lupita Nyong'o, who I predict will be taking home the gold Sunday night for her Supporting performance in 12 YEARS A SLAVE, has a really wasted part playing another flight attendant - I can't remember any significance she has to anything.

To lay out all the misleads and convolutions in John W. Richardson and Christopher Roach's screenplay would be pointless, but I will recount that when it's revealed that it's Neeson's account that the money is going to go to, everybody thinks he's the real terrorist hijacker behind this murderous mid-air mayhem at 30,000 feet.

But instead of tension being mounted, its layers of stupidity piling up - especially when it comes to Neeson breaking down in a big confession to the entire plane's population (and the world via passenger's cellphones) about how fucked up he is. This bit highly resembles the "Oscar Clip" parody that WAYNE'S WORLD did over 20 years ago. 

NON-STOP is not without style - it borrows from House of Cards the aesthetic of how texts pop up on screen in neat bubbles (it also borrows Corey Stoll from that popular Netflix show's first season to play an angry passenger), and cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano's frantic camera placement makes use of the claustrophobic space, but none of the strained stress it attempts to amplify add up to any genuine suspense.

But, hey, at least it's not TAKEN 3, right?

More later...

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