Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Review - Non-Stop

This movie came out last year around this time. Most of Liam Neeson movies now seem to be gratuitous bloodbaths so we decided to take a pass while it was in the theaters.  I watched it on Netflix this week, figuring if the body count got too high, I could turn it off.

Surprising to me, the movie was actually pretty good with a lot of suspense and a fairly low body count. Neeson's character, Bill actually only kills one guy and he sort of deserved it. There are only two leads in the movie. Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks with his usual wild-eyed, unkempt manner. Juilanne Moore plays Jen Summers, a frequent traveler who insists on the window seat. Everyone else on board is a stereotype (the tough NYC cop, the shifty-eyed Muslim, the black hip-hop guy, the frightened little girl traveling alone, the indignant old lady, etc).

Bill is an alcoholic air marshal who's afraid of flying. Actually it's only the take off that scares him. He's on a transatlantic flight clutching the air rests during take off. He gets talking to Jen, his row mate, who helps him calm down. Soon after take off Bill starts getting text messages on his special air marshal phone. The messages are simple. Deposit $150 million in an off-shore account or someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes.

Spoilers ahead. 

After stalking around the plane for awhile, he talks to a fellow air marshal, apparently just traveling for pleasure, and tells the guy to meet him in the bathroom. Bill suspects this guy because he's the only other person on the plane who should be able to access the air marshal network. Bill accuses him of sending the texts, they get in a fight, the other guy pulls his gun, Bill kills him. He finds a large package of cocaine in the dead guy's briefcase. It's almost exactly 20 minutes since the first threat and someone is dead. And the texts continue.

His supervisor on the ground tells Bill that the bank account is in Bill's name, which makes the supervisor very suspicious.

Things go from bad to worse. The next to die is the pilot, foaming at the mouth. The only doctor on the plane is an apparent Muslim (by his clothing and accent). He confirms the poisoning. One of the passenger acts suspiciously and Bill ends up tying his hands up with duck tape.

The passengers start to get scared when Bill yells at them to put their hands on the back of the seat in front of them so he can search them. A helpful guy on the plane, who is some sort of programmer, says he can send a text message to the phone where the texts are coming from, and even if the phone is turned off, the message will make the phone chirp.  This works and Bill hauls the guy who had the phone to the front of the plane. Protesting that he never saw that phone before, he starts foaming at the mouth and dies. Then Bill discovers that there is a bomb hidden in the bag of cocaine with a convenient timer attached to it.

The rest of the passengers have now had enough and when Bill comes out of the bathroom, several stereotypes attack him. Bill manages to survive getting hit in the head twice by a fire extinguisher before suspicious guy gets Bill's gun and gets everybody to listen to Bill's story about the bomb. Nothing like big red numbers counting down to indicate danger. They've got about 18 minutes.

Bill learns from his supervisor that there is a video of him posted by a passenger that has convinced everybody on the ground that he's hijacked the plane. Bill looks at the video and can see, somehow, that suspicious guy and planted the phone on dead foaming at the mouth guy. Then suspicious guy clobbers Bill and takes his gun. And, son of a bitch, helpful guy is in on it too. They are ex-soldiers who have some inarticulate complaint that the country has gone to hell and that by blowing up the plane while making Bill look responsible things will get better. Helpful guy has pulled out their parachutes. Bill carefully explains that you can't parachute from a plane at 18,000 feet without special gear. Suspicious guy says he hadn't planed on getting off the plane. Helpful guy is like, WTF?

Bill has told the co-pilot that he has to take the plane down to 8,000 feet. By the way, they are now on their way to Iceland. The US fighter jets escorting the plane tell the co-pilot to do no such thing. Bill has placed the bomb on the rear door of the plane and the passengers have piled all the luggage on the bomb. The theory is that when the bomb goes off, the luggage will direct the blast outward. If the plane is lower than 8,000 feet, the outside pressure will be high enough so all the passengers won't be killed by decompression. My favorite exchange happens at this point. One of the passengers says "Has this ever worked". Bill says "it's never been tried". Another passenger says "As far as you know". Muslim doctor says "We're all going to die".

Amazingly enough, this works as the co-pilot dives down to 8,000 feet and manages to land the plane with a big hole near the tail, despite the fact that one of the engines blows up for no reason, and most of the business class cabin wall disintegrates. While all this was exciting, I have to say that the special effects were pretty terrible. It looked exactly like a fake explosion on a CGI airplane.

Bill and Jen make plans to hook up while standing on the tarmac with confusion reigning around them.

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