Wednesday, July 02, 2014

"Non-Stop": another set-piece on a hijacked airliner, but maybe a little more relevant now

Non-Stop” (directed by Jaume Collet-Serra)  was released by Universal in February and seems like a stereotyped B-movie airline hijacking thriller.  But it might get more attention now given news reports that Middle Eastern terrorists associated with ISIS are trying to design harder-to-detect airline explosives.
Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) admits to the passengers at one point that he is “not a good man”.  He’s a somewhat stereotyped movie character, especially for a set piece where most of the action is inside a cabin space (again, not the best use of film).  As a flight to London starts, he gets text messages  on his secure smartphone (it’s on a Droid, with an internal keyboard) that if he doesn’t wire money to some particular place, someone will die on the plane every twenty minutes. 
The passengers become a cast of characters, starting with the other air marshall (Anson Mount) who was snorting cocaine.  He was the first casualty, as is a pilot. The killer seems to have a way to nick people with poison darts through the plane infrastructure.  Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), a rather nosy passenger, has helped him discover the texter’s identity.  The nerdy Tom Bowen (Scott McNairy), who had lost his father in 9/11, seems to have staged the incident to prove a point.  (He’s not very convincing.)  A hacker, Zack (Nate Parker) knows how to hack cell phones in use (like the NSA) but seems to have joined into the idealism.

The final crash landing sequence is exciting, although I don’t think it could really happen.

The official site is here  (Universal).

There was one scene where it appeared that plastic explosives were being placed inside a laptop.  I don't know whether this can be done, or whether the computer would still work, but it fits into very recent concerns with new terror threats. There was a time, before 9/11, when security screeners used to ask passengers to turn laptops on; it's not sure how much good that does. It could add to the risk that a flight will be missed or laptop or other gear have to be surrendered, with all the data on it.  

There is, on the DVD, a Bonus short “Suspense at 40000 Feet” where the actors and production team comment on the film.  They say, with passengers on a plane, you don’t know who at any moment might do anything.  But all the characters have to come together at the end.  

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