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Movie Review: "Non-Stop"

Universal(NEW YORK) -- I figured the best possible place to write a review of Liam Neeson’s hijack thriller Non-Stop was on an airplane.  Yes -- as I write this, I'm on a plane at 36,000 feet, heading to Los Angeles to cover the Oscars.  So ladies and gentlemen, please turn off your electronic devices and look to the front of the cabin, where I will demonstrate what to do in the unlikely event your suspension of disbelief spirals out of control and crashes into a sea of illogic.
The first few minutes of Non-Stop set the tone perfectly. Federal air marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) sits in his car, parked in front of the airport. Unshaven, tired and clearly depressed, he unearths a bottle of whiskey and pours it into a paper coffee cup.  Yet he finds his resolve when he pulls down the sun visor to reveal a wallet-sized picture of an adorable little girl -- his daughter, we suppose.  Bill gently kisses his fingers, then caresses the photo with them.  The entire scene lasts maybe two minutes but Neeson imbues it with enough gravitas to last through to the closing credits.
By the time his plane takes off, we learn a few more things about Bill.  He’s at odds with his supervisor, he doesn’t suffer fools, he’s kind to little girls, has good rapport with the flight crew, most notably a flight attendant named Nancy (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery). Take-offs make him nervous and, thanks to his seatmate, Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), we learn a purple shoelace he keeps with him belonged to his teenage daughter.
Not long into the flight, Bill receives threatening text messages, demanding he has 150 million dollars transferred to a particular account in 20 minutes, or somebody on the plane is going to die.  After warning the anonymous texter that they're breaking the law, Bill informs the pilot and Nancy, and they all try to determine the texter's identity.  In the meantime, the deadline passes and someone does indeed die -- and there will be more deaths to come.
This broken alcoholic is thrust into a situation where he can’t trust anyone, including the flight crew he's known for years, various passengers he thought were good people and, perhaps, not even himself, as these faceless bad guys flip the script and make the world believe that it's actually Bill who's hijacking the plane.
On paper, Non-Stop is absolutely absurd: Marks is used as a pawn in an elaborate, high-tech hijacking scheme designed to frame him as the bad guy.  Despite a particular character pointing out the ease of the operation, there’s simply no way this could ever happen.  Welcome to the movies.  Yet unbelievable though it may be, it all works.  Thanks to Neeson's inspired performance, and under the direction of Juame Collet-Serra, Non-Stop is a glorious mix of non-stop suspense, gritty realism, and absurd plot twists.
Four out of five stars.

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