Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Here’s a game to play during an action movie that fails to hold your attention: Die Hard Bingo. The rules are simple: Did one of the Die Hard films do it first? And did Die Hard do it better?
Unfortunately for viewers of Non-Stop, each important element has been bested by its predecessor. Is our hero an alcoholic who has lost/alienated his family? Check. Does he acquire a civilian sidekick with whom the audience can identify? Check. Does the bad guy seem to lust only for money, but it turns out he is driven by an ideological and/or patriotic ideal, as well as money? Check. Is the protagonist’s ability and/or mental competence questioned by his supposed superiors throughout the film, only to prove himself a hero by the end? Check.
But Non-Stop’s fatal flaw is not that it doesn’t live up to its spiritual predecessor: it’s that it raises the stakes a total of twice: the first time not enough, the next time too late and by too great a degree.
The plot is simple: a hijacker threatens air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), promising to kill one passenger every 20 minutes until he gets the $150 million dollars he has demanded. And then he does.
Spoiler alert: every 20 minutes someone dies—that’s the whole movie.
After the first death you get the feeling he’s serious about this. After the second you wonder what else he’s got up his sleeve. After the third, you start to think, “OK, well, it’s six hours between New York and London. At three deaths per hour that’s 18 deaths … a Boeing 777 can carry up to 450 passengers … that’s only four percent of the passengers murdered … maybe Neeson should just grab another Bushmills and roll with this?”
But that’s not what happens: in the final eight minutes or so, the screenwriter finally gets around to raising the stakes a second time in a sequence of events so ridiculous, so far-fetched and laughable, I had to check my ticket to see if I was watching Liam Neeson in Non-Stop, or Leslie Nielsen in Airplane!.
Alas, it was the former, and though Neeson has proven he can carry a brainless action flick, he cannot carry this brainless action flick.