"I am SICK of these mother(bleep)ing cellphones on this mother(bleep)ing plane!"

“I am SICK of these mother(bleep)ing cellphones on this mother(bleep)ing plane!”

I was reluctant to see this as I thought it was basically going to beTaken 3. That is to say, I thought it was Liam Neeson, whom I’ve found to be just a so-so to outright stiff actor, doing what he’s done twice before. And that is to say, appear in a standard action film that’s high on explosions and gunfire, while low on character development.

For the most part, I was wrong. Nonstop starts off somewhat cliched, as we’re introduced to Neeson’s William Marks, a former cop who’s reduced to air marshal (yet he doesn’t like to fly) who has a drinking problem, a failed marriage and a tragic past. Nothing we haven’t seen or heard before. On top of that, you can pretty much hear the creaking wheels of derivation as many of the main characters/passengers/suspects are trollied across the screen. The film pretty much forces you to begin sizing each of them up to determine which one done it.

Be that as it may, Nonstop is incredibly engaging and thoughtful when it first takes off (no pun intended). The mystery is a classic old school setup: somewhere lurks a terrorist who threatens to kill a passenger on Marks’ plane every twenty minutes unless $150 million is paid to him or her. It’s no spoiler to mention that casualties do occur and the first one is executed brilliantly. It led me to believe that the film was going to really screw with the protagonist, that Marks was going to a puppet in aiding the terrorist involuntarily. Then I thought to myself that there’s no way the film could sustain such a level of suspense and plot. I was right. Just after the halfway point, things begin to fall apart in terms of logic. The sucky airline wifi I experience must strictly be due to user error on my part. And this is a film that requires an exact set of circumstances to fall into place allowing the villain to accomplish his goals.

The most egregious problem with this film is the same thing that has plagued me with a number of thrillers (Breakdown with Kurt Russell comes to mind as a thriller that effectively avoids this issue). The buildup is tense and engaging, but the reveal is a big letdown. It usually never lives up to the setup, which is definitely the case here. Some of the reveals border on eye-rolling. It made me wonder if, like the excellent Executive Decision (also starring Kurt Russell, on a plane, no less) where the main enemy is revealed at the beginning and the suspense lies in seeing how the hero will thwart the enemy, this would have been a better film all around if that convention were employed here.

Nonetheless, the performances from Neeson and Julianne Moore are solid, the buildup is engaging, and the action is not completely overblown; of course, it goes without saying that if your thriller is set on a plane, there’s going to be a farfetched dramatic landing involving all sorts of pyrotechnics, gunplay, acrobatics, et. al. so we’ll take that as a given.

I must point out the only other letdown. Lupita Nyongo’o, who just 18 hours ago won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years A Slave, is given nothing to do here and is onscreen for no more than 15 minutes. It’s clear she booked this gig prior to the release of TYAS and the producers didn’t know what they had on their hands. I just hope the movie-going public doesn’t see this film as a demotion for her.

3.5/5 reels

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