Non-Stop Blu-ray Review
Non-Stop keeps its tray table in the upright position on Blu-ray with a release that offers great picture and bracing sound but nothing to prepare the viewer for the hysterically laughable final act. The movie, pitting Liam Neeson as an air marshal against an unseen killer on an international flight, has some great thriller moments along the way, but eventually implodes under the weight of its outlandish plot. The Blu-ray is well-appointed technically, and holds just over ten minutes worth of special features. Fans of Liam Neeson’s current incarnation as an angry action hero may enjoy the first two thirds of the movie before it all comes to grief.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/10/2014
The Production Rating: 2/5
Non-Stop has an interesting premise at its core, but, like many current thrillers, it simply has no idea what to do when it comes to eventually solving the mystery. The movie presents Liam Neeson as Bill Marks, a troubled air marshal assigned to an international flight. After a few scenes designed to show us just how troubled Bill is, the plane takes off and the real fun begins. At a certain point, Bill receives a menacing text on his secure marshal phone, telling him if he doesn’t pay a LOT of money within 20 minutes, someone on the plane will die. The idea is more than crazy, but it’s interesting enough for the movie to carry the viewer through several hoops as Bill tries to figure out who on the plane is doing this. There’s even a bit of Agatha Christie-style fun, along the lines of And Then There Were None as we are shown multiple suspects, any one of whom could be the bad guy. Is it the shifty bald guy in the center aisle? Is it the guy in the hoodie? Is it the Islamic guy? Is it the other air marshal? Or is it the flight attendant? The movie plays that card as far as it can before the real fireworks get going and Bill switches into full Liam Neeson action mode, complete with some messy close-quarters fighting and lots of scenery being chewed both emotionally and physically. Not much of the movie makes a lick of sense but it’s still moving along in an interesting way until the treacherous third act arrives. Fans of this genre know it’s the point where a mystery thriller is either vindicated or lost. A typical Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes mystery is normally built in reverse from the third act, so that all the puzzle pieces will add up in a satisfying manner. Unfortunately, Non-Stop appears not to have followed that lead, so the big reveal winds up being so outlandish that it could provoke laughter from the audience. And I’m not talking about titters or giggles here – I’m talking about wild, uncontrollable, hysterical laughter. At least, that’s what happened in my case.
SPOILERS HERE: From the beginning of the movie, it’s clear that someone at Silver Pictures saw the 2012 movie Flight and decided to replay that idea in an action vein. Instead of Denzel Washington as an alcoholic pilot, we get Liam Neeson as an alcoholic air marshal. We know he’s troubled right from the start from the little glints of distaste that Neeson shows as he arrives at the airport and unhappily interacts with everyone else getting on his plane. (In a sense, Neeson’s performance can be compared to the fun work of Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo action comedies, where the character starts off near-catatonic in the early going, but quickly morphs into the Incredible Hulk when the bad stuff happens…) After presenting us with what must be a record number of potentially evil suspects, the movie takes the next step with the fateful text threat. This is the first big hurdle of the movie for believability since most people know that it’s unlikely for anyone to be able to successfully text an air marshall’s secure phone, let alone anyone else. Just thinking about this from the third act, how does the killer know Bill’s secure phone number? How does the killer know much about Bill at all? And how does the killer know that Bill will just happen to be in the right place in exactly 20 minutes for the planned killing to go down? Without all three of those pieces, the movie starts to fall apart right away. Given an action movie fan’s willingness to go with it for the moment, things hold together at first. At least we get a trademark messy Liam Neeson fight to cap this initial tension.
MORE SPOILERS: To keep the plot moving along, the movie introduces several twists that theoretically keep the viewer guessing. After another 20 minutes, the pilot is killed within the sealed cockpit. The bank account discussed by the killer in the texts actually seems to be in Bill’s name. And Bill’s own ham-handed way of dealing with all this results in public speculation that Bill himself is the one holding the plane hostage. As an added bit of fun, the movie has the passengers see the news story about Bill and builds to the inevitable group assault on Bill in the aisle. Of course, unlike other movies where the crowd takes out an evil terrorist in their midst, this group hit backfires. After all, it is Liam Neeson they’re attacking and he’s not going to take that lying down. But it isn’t just the passengers that take a beating here – it’s another few major pieces of the logic of the story. We are now meant to believe that someone could cut a hole between the forward bathroom and the cockpit without anyone noticing, so that the killer could somehow sneak a blowdart in and shoot the pilot with it. (And let’s not worry about the part where nobody in the cockpit noticed the pilot being shot, grabbing his neck or the big dart hanging out…) We are meant to believe that nobody on the ground would look into this special account to see who opened it, and where and when – instead, everyone just assumes it’s Bill and leaves it at that. The only thing that keeps things moving at this point is the constantly moving camera under the direction of Jaume Collet-Serra. Speaking of Collet-Serra, this is par for the course for his resume. Earlier offerings from him include 2009’s fake-out thriller Orphan and 2011’s angry Liam Neeson actioner Unknown. As with the earlier logic holes, these ones are also passable, simply on the speed with which the twists keep coming and the ways that the movie keeps presenting different possibilities for the killer’s real identity. Is it the squirrely-looking teacher? Is it the nice woman in the seat next to him? Or maybe it’s the businessman who seems to have the bad guy’s phone after another passenger does a computer hack for Bill and gets it to audibly ring. (And I’ll just skip over the part about how they pull that trick off…)
EVEN MORE SPOILERS: It’s really in the third act that the weight of all the illogic comes crashing down, no pun intended. After putting up with all the other twists, the viewer will be hoping that the movie will have a major payoff and not just for the bad guys. Instead, the movie offers a double twist that comes so far out of nowhere that it’s frankly stunning. And just when the viewer has started to absorb who the conspirators are, the script pushes the issue farther by saying that the two conspirators actually have different identities and personalities from anything we’ve seen over the course of the movie. This is pretty ballsy, to say the least. Modern mystery fans are used to having red herrings thrown around, but this really pushes it over the line. It’s not enough that the movie plays games of “You think it’s THIS guy? No, it isn’t him, is it?” and then comes back around to say “Well, it IS that guy, but he isn’t who you think he is! He’s a completely different character you’ve never heard about before!” Someone in planning this movie must have thought this would be a neat “game changer”. Sadly, that’s not the impact such a ridiculous choice has on an audience. The more accurate description would be “laughter provoker”. With all concerns about plot logic now completely blown, the movie spends its remaining ten minutes running all the action movie gags it can, including gunfights that don’t depressurize the cabin, a wild descent that doesn’t get the presumably hijacked jet shot down, and then a massive explosion in the cabin that doesn’t send everyone out the windows to make their own individual descents. Did I forget to mention the big suitcase full of cocaine and a bomb? Or perhaps I forgot to mention how the killer’s smart phone suddenly gets the ability to text messages as Bill to the authorities. And perhaps we could get into how the killer would be able to plan for Bill to run a computer trace and ring his cell phone. But that would just get us into a discussion of what turbulence this plane is encountering. It would ignore the bigger problem of the missing plot engine. (It’s ironically appropriate that they kill the pilot partway through – the movie’s intelligence seems to go away with it.) Of course, the final act does allow Liam Neeson to deliver an emotional monologue along the lines of Denzel Washington’s confession in Flight. Except that this time we get the angry monologue, and it’s followed up by people being beat up and/or shot and/or exploded.
SPOILERS DONE: I realize that there are likely fans of this genre who would be willing to put up with all the issues I have raised here. There are fans of Liam Neeson’s latest action stylings a la Taken who enjoy watching him take out the bad guys (“IT WAS ALL PERSONAL TO ME!” Blam!). I’m just saying there’s a limit to how far you can stretch this rubber band before it snaps. Or to be more appropriate for this movie, there’s a limit to how much stress you can put on an airplane before it comes apart. As this one does. That said, there’s a virtue in successful comedy – even if it’s unintentional. Sometimes it’s funniest when the gag lines aren’t intentional – and this movie really has a few whoppers by the end. And as I do believe in the healing power of laughter, I’ve rated this movie to two stars rather than one.
Non-Stop will be released next week on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray includes the movie in high definition picture and sound and a pair of featurettes running a combined total of 13 minutes. The Blu-ray also includes the DVD edition in the packaging, along with instructions for downloading a digital copy.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Non-Stop is presented in a 2.40:1 1080p AVC encode (@ an average 30 mbps) that looks quite good throughout, although it does occasionally reveal more about some dodgy CGI exterior shots of the plane. Flesh tones look accurate, and textures hold up even during several scenes in darkened situations.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Non-Stop has an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (@ an average 3.9 mbps, going up to 5.3 mbps in the bigger moments), and it’s probably the strongest element for the movie and the Blu-ray. Beyond the big jet engine sounds on the exteriors, the movie also has a palpable sense of atmosphere thanks to the sound mix. The movie is also presented in a DTS 5.1 mix in French and Spanish. An English DVS track is also included.
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Non-Stop comes with two featurettes on the making of the movie.
Non-Stop Action – (5:14, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) (BIG SPOILERS IN THIS FEATURETTE – DO NOT WATCH UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE, IF THAT MATTERS TO YOU…) – This featurette discusses the various stunts and fights seen in the movie as Liam Neeson takes on bad guys in the limited environment of a plane. Liam Neeson comments about relishing the opportunities he has here at the age of 61 to play all these action beats.
Suspense at 40,000 Feet (7:45, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This featurette is a more general BTS piece, including some interesting footage and comments about how the plane set was constructed to allow maximum camera movement and flexibility. I’m going to assume that whoever titled this featurette is a fan of The Twilight Zone…
DVD – The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD edition of the movie, presenting it in standard definition with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, French and Spanish (@448 kbps) and the English DVS track, and including Suspense at 40,000 Feet as its only special feature.
Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging has an insert that contains instructions for downloading a digital or ultraviolet copy of the movie.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Non-Stop looks and particularly sounds great on Blu-ray, in a completely technical sense. But the movie itself is fatally compromised with an escalating tide of plot holes and a hilariously ill-conceived climax. Fans of Liam Neeson may want to rent this. Others may wish to take a different Flight.
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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