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Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/10/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/10/2014
Does anyone else remember the innocent times before 2008? Back then, Liam Neeson was known as a fairly serious actor who appeared in dramas like Schindler's List and Kinsey. While he did some lighter fare like Love Actually and Batman Begins (if you want to call that lighter), most of his work was pretty straight-laced. But, in 2008, the then 56-year old Neeson appeared in a movie called Taken, and suddenly, an action star was born. Due to the fact that Taken brought in $145 million in the U.S. alone, everyone was clamoring to have Neeson in their action films. Since that time, the actor has appeared in a steady stream of violent movies, which has resulted in a mixed-bag quality wise. And despite the fact that he's now over 60, Non-Stop shows that Neeson has no intention of slowing down.
Non-Stop introduces us to Bill Marks (Neeson), a seemingly broken man who is clearly an alcoholic. We seem him move through an airport and then board a plane, where he goes through the normal routine that any passenger would, including introducing himself to Jen (Julianne Moore), who is seated beside him. But, Bill is not an ordinary passenger -- He is an air marshal and it's his job to get the flight safe. Not long after take off, Bill receives an anonymous text announcing that one of the passengers will die in 20 minutes, unless a ransom demand is met. At first, Bill believes this to be an elaborate prank, but he then enlists flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery) in assisting him in locating any acting suspicious. When a death does occur, Bill knows that this is no game, and things get very crazy when it appears that Bill is the one demanding the money.
In the early 90s, when I saw John Woo's Hard Boiled, I began pondering the notion of the "Wouldn't It Be Cool If...?" style of filmmaking. This is where a writer or director thinks of an action which would look cool on-screen and then creates a scenario around it. During the last act of Non-Stop, such a moment occurs and if you are like me, you will simultaneously be thinking "That is cool." and "I waded through the rest of this movie for that?", for the movie is a series of highs and lows, both emotionally and in terms of quality.
Non-Stop wants to be a Hitchcockian thriller meets Passenger 57, which, in and of itself, isn't a bad idea. Writers John W. Richardson & Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle set up the premise rather nicely, offering Bill as a flawed hero and outlining the parameters of the threats. This is followed by the first death, which really makes the audience wonder exactly what is going on. However, after this, the movie begins to go downhill, as we don't get the requisite number of red herrings. A film like Non-Stop lives or dies by having the audience question what is going on for the duration of the film. However, most viewers will feel trapped by this movie. Is it Bill doing this or one of the bland, stereotypical passengers? Ostensibly, we don't want it to be Bill, but the movie would certainly seem weak if it was one of these other people.
Which brings us to the finale. Despite the somewhat milquetoast quality of the story and characters, Non-Stop does move along at a nice pace and the action scenes are well-done given that they occur in the confines of a plane. But, when the truth behind the threats and the deaths is revealed. The movie comes to a screeching halt. The mechanics of what was happening are fairly sound (although some of them aren't explained in their entirety), but the reason for the events feels like something that the writers pulled out of thin air in a rush to impress the producers. It's both vague and convoluted at the same time and much like a hole in the cabin, it really sucks the air out of the film.
I can't help but wonder if Non-Stop would fit in the overhead compartment, as it is clearly a mixed-bag. The film comes from Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who also directed Neeson in the equally mediocre Unknown. Non-Stop offers some nice ideas, but there are many times when it reminded me of 2005's Flightplan. Much of the cast is good here, and Neeson delivers another steady performance as an American law-man who somehow has a foreign accent. Still, the bland nature of the characters and the weak ending rob Non-Stop of being a truly noteworthy entry into the canon which has become the second act of Neeson's career. It's worth a rental, but don't pout if you are put on stand-by.
Non-Stop introduces a plot device which should appeal to bushmen on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the blues and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent, as is the picture's depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the action scenes provide strong subwoofer effects (both from the sound effects and from the musical cues) and notable surround sound effects as well. Given the enclosed space of the film, we get some good stereo effects which often illustrate sounds coming from off-screen.
The Non-Stop Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. "Non-Stop Action" (5 minutes) contains some on-set footage and comments from various crew members who discuss the challenge of creating an action film in the enclosed space of an airplane. This shows us the thinking behind some of the fight scenes and how the camera moved around the plane. "Suspense at 40,000 Feet" (8 minutes) looks at the story and examines the mystery involved. This is one of those odd featurettes which seems unnecessary as we just watched the movie.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long