Non-Stop packs a lot of suspense into the opening of the movie–mainly with the audience desperately hoping that this in-flight murder mystery doesn’t derail, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor. The plot certainly sets out on a pretty decent path. Liam Neeson looks reliably ragged as an alcoholic Air Marshal named Bill Marks, who’s catching a flight to London while running into a bunch of assorted red herrings.
The movie also does an admirable job of setting up the in-flight texts that he receives, as a mysterious figure announces that passengers on the plane will be murdered every 20 minutes unless $150 million gets wired to a bank account. Things get downright intriguing when we learn the bank account is in the name of Marks, and we can’t even be sure that the Air Marshal hasn’t gone schizoid.
That’s all good for about 30 minutes. Then it’s resolved that there really is a psycho on the plane, and Marks has to spend the next hour acting like a total idiot so that Non-Stop can deliver some pretty stupid Big Ideas about modern media and international politics. That’s courtesy of Bill Marks becoming breaking news as the TSA becomes convinced that he’s turned into a real terrorist, while our hero tries to calm the passengers and save their lives.
Die Hard 2 did a much better job of lampooning the news back in 1990. Non-Stop gets laughable once Marks can’t bother to inform his superiors that there’s a witness on board who can prove the Air Marshall’s innocence. From there, various idiocies pile up and shift around during the flight.
We don’t mind fun films where we wake up the next day and count the plot holes. Non-Stop, however, constantly runs into overblown explanations and dopey coincidences. It’s a grinding halt to a hot streak that Neeson had going with this year’s The Nut Job and The LEGO Movie. Both of those films are more realistic (and a lot less insulting) than Non-Stop‘s plummeting into stupidity.