Home » Villains » 1 Villain » Non-Stop •••

Non-Stop •••

NST_31_5_Promo_4C_4F.inddStarring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach
Action/Mystery/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2014
Marks: Single, P-PP Moral, Pro (Classic Lone Hero)
Villains: Duo, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Hidden Divergent Villains)


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, it’s time to stop what we’re doing to review Non-Stop.

Scott, the action in this movie was non-stop. Let’s recap.

Air marshall Bill Marks’s (Liam Neeson) personal life is a mess. He’s recently divorced and his young daughter just passed away. Now he’s an alcoholic, angry at life and very agitated. He boards a flight from New York to London and finds himself sitting beside Jen Summers (Julianne Moore). When the plane is well over the Atlantic, Marks receives a threatening text message on his secure phone line.

The sender says that someone will die every 20 minutes until his demands are met. That’s when Marks goes into action. He consults another Air Marshall who tells Marks his fears are without merit. However Marks discovers the other marshall is carrying a suitcase full of cocaine. When Marks confronts him the two duke it out and Marks is forced to kill him, just at the 20 minute mark.

Greg, airline disaster movies were common in the 1960s and 70s, but we stopped seeing them after the groundbreaking and satirical Airplane! was released in 1980. Since that time, it’s been difficult to create an airline disaster movie with any originality or unintentional humor. I have to give Non-Stop credit for taking a risk with a movie storyline that shares much of the conventional build-up with those air-disaster movies of yesteryear.

Does this film work? I think it does to some extent. Liam Neeson does a nice job of capturing a tormented father dealing with many personal issues. His character Bill Marks is a classic hero in the sense that he is missing inner peace, self-confidence, and self-respect. The air disaster awaiting him serves as the vehicle of his redemption. This movie is far from perfect, but it did hit all the right notes in terms of following the mythic hero journey.

I have to agree, Scott. Non-Stop employs a classic device to make the movie captivating – the countdown timer. Every 20 minutes something has to happen. This creates tension and impending doom. I thought it was a little convenient that Marks killed his colleague just in time for the first countdown, but I was willing to let it slide for the sake of my willing suspension of disbelief.

As a hero Marks does pretty well. He is courageous and a leader when the time comes to act. And, as you point out, has some important personal demons that he has to overcome. He blames himself for not being around when his daughter was dying of cancer. Despite the fact that his job requires him to fly he is afraid of take-offs. And he drinks to excess which is probably not in his job description. I’m not sure that he overcomes any of these imperfections, but he does save the day and that makes him a hero.

Well, I think we can assume that Marks’s drinking was a symptom of his character deficits that his completed hero journey was able to remedy. The man is basically a mess, and just when it looks like everyone on board is about to lynch him, he confesses his sins to the angry mob in an impassioned speech that tugs on every passenger’s heartstrings. For me, this was perhaps the only unintentionally humorous scene in the movie, but his brutal honesty does win over the passengers and seems to spur him to take a slew of extraordinary actions that will save everyone’s lives.

One nagging question I had throughout much of the movie was why Marks didn’t trust the NYPD cop sooner. That oversight made Marks’s job tougher than it needed to be. It was also more than a little far-fetched that he happens to be in the right place at the right time to save the life of a little girl who happens to be the same age as his deceased daughter, who of course he couldn’t save. Still, despite a few imperfections here and there, I was impressed by Neeson’s performance and entertained by the story.

The villain in this story is pretty much invisible until the very end of the movie. This added a certain level of mystery to him and made him a bit ominous. However, when the villain is revealed, we find that he is an Iraq war veteran who is disillusioned with the purpose of the war. He wants to underscore the fact that America is still vulnerable to attack and so hijacked the plane.

I felt this was a lame excuse for a villain’s motivation. It was a political statement that should have stayed home. It comes from out of nowhere and has no basis in popular culture. The villain pulled off some pretty impressive feats (like creating a Swiss bank account in Marks’s name, bribing an Air Marshall with a massive amount of cocaine, and creating a bomb that eluded detection). I found the villain’s story to be clumsy and unbelievable.

I completely agree with your analysis, Greg. The villains could have been anyone on the plane and were impossible to guess. The backstory of the two (or three) villains did not unfold until the very end, and even then it was a villain origin story that stretched the bounds of believability. Their villainous motives were bizarre and unrealistic, in my opinion. Compared to our hero, Bill Marks, the villains in this movie were a big disappointment.

Non-Stop was a thrilling ride from beginning to the end. Some of the plot points were a bit hard to swallow, but if you hang on during some of the wider turns, you’ll enjoy yourself. I give Non-Stop 3 out of 5 Reels.

Liam Neeson plays a decent hero with lots of deficits who redeems himself in the end. I enjoyed watching Marks work out the mystery of the hidden villain. I give Marks 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The villain was hidden from us for most of the movie and that amped-up the mystery. But the final reveal was unbelievable and disappointing. I give him just 1 Villain out of 5.

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Non-Stop is an entertaining movie that is hardly groundbreaking but still manages to hold our interest with its likeable hero, suspenseful story, and act of redemption. Liam Neeson deserves credit for delivering a terrific performance and for making us feel his pain as well as his satisfying redemption at the end. Like you, Greg, I give this movie a solid 3 Reels out of 5.

The hero story was a strong one, in my opinion. Marks was as emotionally and spiritually beaten up as a man can be, and the dark, dangerous events on the plane allowed him to develop qualities that were the seeds of his transformation. In evolving as a person, he delivers a gift to the people around him by saving their lives. I give Marks 4 Heroes out of 5.

You’re absolutely right that this movie’s big weak spot was its ridiculous villains whose motives were so absurd that, in my opinion, the actors who played the villains could not even do their jobs well. Quite generously, I award these so-called villains 1 Villain out of 5.

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