Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Non-Stop tedium 

Tight, claustrophobic environments in thrillers are great, providing tension thanks to the lack of escape as our hero desperately tries to safeguard the innocent against unknowable odds. Therefore Non-Stop, with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore onboard an ailing flight, should be great. So why instead does it make for a Non-Stop thrill ride of unadulterated tedium?

The central problem is the central conceit simply does not work. Neeson’s (bitter, depressed, overly clichéd ex-cop alcoholic federal marshal) character is goaded by a terrorist via TEXT. That’s right, texting, perhaps the most un-cinematic of communication methods, which, when it comprises almost the entire first half of the film, makes it rather hard to get involved  on any level, other than perhaps thinking: ‘did they seriously think this was a good idea?’. Little message boxes popping up onscreen featuring epic dialogue of short, uninteresting phrases, seems frankly bizarre, yet that is the film.  Yes, normal text messaging is rarely full of grandiose wit or turns of phrase, but this is cinema, you are supposed to keep an audience interested. It may maintain the villain’s anonymity but takes up half the film. During which the most exciting thing is the characters’ capability in the art of mobile communication: after all, there is not a single typo in any of the messages. 

The film may have survived had it featured a better journey destination; neither to London, as claimed by the heavily accented flight crew, nor to Iceland, but rather clichéville. This is where all the characters clearly belong, be it the angry cop, the annoying businessman, the kindly lady (Julianne Moore) or the sweet little innocent you are supposed to not want to die (it was either going to be that or a small dog). None of them appear as anything more than shadows acting out the perfunctory roles, and in truth there is nothing for them to do. Once the infernal texting finally ends, Liam Neeson runs about shouting and waving his gun about while they look stunned, yet even then the cast are trapped with nothing to work with. The script is sparse in anything relatable other than an overly dramatic ex cop with issues and a back-story you have seen a hundred times before. And if you’re hoping for him to beat enemies to a bloody pulp as he did so well in Taken you’re in for a bitter surprise, as these sequences make up about a solitary minute of the entire film, and are ineptly handled.

I could go on about how the music that is supposed to add tension is simply annoying, or about the plot holes, or the ridiculous finale, or everything else that can be thrown at it. Yet the most galling thing about Non-Stop is that is a clearly wasted opportunity, in terms of both acting talent and also the concept of a secretive goading killer on a plane. This idea has legs and could have been really tense and exciting, had the film featured better characters, vaguely interesting dialogue and less texting. Perhaps even no texting. EVER AGAIN. 

James Absolon

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