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March 3, 2014

Non-Stop


What? Yet another movie review? A second one in less than a month? Yep. I don't go to the theater that often, but when I do, you bet I'm going to write a post about it!

So, this week, I went to watch the film Non-Stop. Starring Liam Neeson, this movie is an airplane thriller in the vein of Flight Plan. Of course, being a thriller, it's action-packed and there's a lot of characters. The movie has a lot to do with technology, as most of the action is triggered by text discussions between Neeson's character and the terrorist. Another interesting detail about thrillers set in airplanes? There's usually over a hundred people sitting in a plane, and therefore it's very difficult to find the villain. Here, it's very special, as the film keeps you guessing all the way through. Is that passenger the terrorist? Is it that passenger? Is it one of the flight attendants? The co-pilot? Is it the protagonist himself? Seriously, your suspicions will continue to run amok until at least the last fourth. But, what's the story and how good is it? Let's find out.

Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a U.S. air marshal with some serious personal problems. Chain smoking, alcoholism, depression. He's living through a divorce, his young daughter died from cancer, and he was also discharged from police. Still, it is his task, as some sort of "air police", to be of every flight and look for terrorists and other maniacs of that kind. He's on this flight with another air marshal.

While he's on the plane, he socializes a little with the woman sitting next to him. After takeoff, he receives text messages from someone asking who he was; quickly enough, though, the person he's text messaging to is revealed to be a terrorist who menaces to kill one person on the plane every 20 minutes unless 150 million dollars are sent to his bank account. Looking for the messages' sender, he has an altercation with the other air marshal, who was smuggling cocaine in a mallet. Their fight goes too far and Bill kills him in self-defense, only slightly before 20 minutes have passed.

Bill gets help from the flight attendants and also speaks to the pilot and co-pilot, hoping he can get as many people on his side as possible. He can also count on the woman who sat next to him, Jen Summers (played by Julianne Moore). Unable to find the true culprit in the second 20 minute countdown, he finds out that the pilot was poisoned and died.

Things keep getting worse, as Bill's attempts at finding the terrorist lead the other passengers to believe that he is, actually, the terrorist. Bill has been searching suspects, all people who had cellphones with them on the flight, reading the last texts they sent; among them one or two women, but men of all kinds, some that look tough, some that are more like nerds, one who seems to be a Muslim. During that time, photos and videos of Bill Marks and his techniques are being sent to the medias of America, leading the public to also believe that Bill is the terrorist. Despite all the clues - and all suspicions - pointing towards him, the air marshal keeps looking for the culprit, and even gets the help of a hacker to find him. Eventually, even the Transportation Security Administration believes that he's the terrorist, which means that now, pretty much everyone is against him... But by that time, a passenger dies, at the same moment that Bill was interrogating him violently.

As if things couldn't possibly go worse, the real terrorist sends a text message saying that there's a bomb on the plane... And sadly, I must stop there.

I can say this, though: The last third of this story has plot twist after plot twist and the tension keeps building. Liam Neeson carries this movie on his shoulders, giving a credible performance (or, well, as credible as can be in far-fetched scripts like this). I keep saying it, the movie keeps you guessing until near the very end. The story is interesting and touches on a problem with the United States: aerial security. So, this basis on reality is interesting. Though, I wonder if it's a good idea to bring attention to this problem. Don't get me wrong, it's important to know that the selection of air marshals isn't exactly top-notch and some air marshals that are hired might not be totally reliable... But won't this bring even more fear among the American public?

My second major problem is about the villain. This is major spoilers, so don't read this paragraph if you want to go watch this film someday: The villains are Iraq war veterans who wanted to prove the flawed security system of air marshals by causing this terrorist attack and putting the blame on Bill Marks. Look, I'm sorry, but post-traumatic stress disorder doesn't explain how a veteran soldier can want to kill over a hundred people in a fit of revenge. I mean, I can understand that war causes a lot of psychological problems, and the United States have suffered a lot after 9/11, but I really don't believe in that switch from shell-shocked veteran to serial killer. So, yeah, that's my main problem with that aspect of the story. Am I right? I don't know, I'm not an expert in psychology.

Third problem, sort of a minor one; at some point, the story becomes really complicated. You probably noticed that from the description I've written. If you don't pay attention, you could miss important details. You really have to follow the plot, because it gets really complicated in the third act. That might play against the movie, it might strengthen it... For this one, it's really how you feel about that.

The camera shakes, but most of the time it's to replicate the effects of turbulence inside the plane. You're not going to find a scene where you missed a part of the action because of the shaking camera. The characters are very well developed, and the effects are great, especially those at the end, after the reveal of a bomb in the plane. Also, before that point, we can read on the screen every text message sent by Bill to the terrorist or vice-versa. Also, the story is really centered on cell phones, what with text messages, phone calls and phone cameras... Lastly, the actors are all giving very good performances, especially Neeson. What else is there to say?

If you really like thriller movies or if you want some thrills for an hour and a half, go watch it. If you're not a fan, well... obviously, skip it. But it's still a very enjoyable watch, I strongly suggest it to anyone who's craving for action.