Liam Neeson punches people on a plane, apparently angry over being colored teal
Non-Stop closes on ‘Terror at 30,000 feet!’ spectacle, the type of lumbering airline disaster best fitted to the groan inducing drama of late entries in the Airport saga. Oxygen masks fall, slow motion gunshots ensue. It’s eye rolling cinema.
But, to its credit, this is not Liam Neeson on the assault. Non-Stop is surprisingly subdued with its clever build of background characters and sharp mystery, only splintered by high-end mobile phone techno babble partway through.
Neeson’s Bill Marks stacks up against a plane’s worth of potential terrorism suspects, one of them tampering with digital data lines to circulate passenger death threats. That’s bad for Neeson’s Air Marshall, worse for impending victims. Non-Stop is much a localized post 9-11 film, with the camera playfully teetering on a single (potential) Muslim suspect, aimless commentary on security, and a miniscule dose of airline paranoia for these plotting necessities in triplicate.
Much of Non-Stop is spent weeding out the responsible party. Is it the nerdy southern school teacher? The bald guy who stares menacingly whenever cameras pan by? Maybe it’s the stewardess or shaky co-pilot? It’s like Clue, only in the air and sans any death dealing candlesticks. The latter didn’t make it past the screening process.
While not as taut as some other flying thrillers (see: Red Eye), Non-Stop is better constructed. With some leniency in length – stretching to break the skin of 100 minutes – this three writer screenplay reconstructs the dramatic, illogical pleasantries of some ’90s era thrillers, with enough established doubt and wrong calls to derail the audience from targeting the villain.
Bill Marks is pressured by narrative curveballs, including a ground team who sniffs out Marks’ shaken past to bill him as the cause. The blaming wrap-around effect escalates into a notable pocket of dense panic as this scenario slips from control. Of course, it all falls apart as Neeson begins pulling a trigger and CG begins a hostile takeover of the imagery, but this is all brief. Non-Stop spends an appreciable amount of time building and constructing a situation of alluring moments.
It may be little more than a temporary distraction meant to once again lift Neeson’s action cred (and there is a vicious close-range bathroom brawl worth the time), yet Non-Stop finds justification for its title.
Non-Stop? It’s more like, Non-Stop Teal! Ha ha? No? Well, that’s why I write Blu-ray reviews and not comedy.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra and cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano pair to shoot on film, and then siphon any hint of natural coloring evident on their finished product. Non-Stop is utterly warped by a combination of glassy teals and blues, evaporating contrast and drying black levels to dramatic extent. Flesh tones are bent to the pair’s color grading will with a full loss of primaries.
Labiano’s work is cautiously soft as well, picking up come the third act. Close-ups are frequent yet devoid of fine definition. Grain naturally seeps over the images with a distinct buzz while Universal’s AVC encode pushes through without adding further visual blight.
Non-Stop never appears terrible, but rather loses itself in an indistinct style which translates poorly to this format – or maybe just the expectations. Cinematography, outside of the head shaking color decisions, is glossy and without apparent budgetary restrictions. The overlaid sheen is distinctive, and when time comes to push heightened fidelity, Non-Stop pushes into the realm of dazzling. Natural sunlight hits the cabin and suddenly this feature appears split into two different movies, one with precision, the other with soft teal.
Marks is a quiet character during Non-Stop’s introductory period, letting airport ambiance wash over him and thus each channel in this DTS-HD 5.1 mix. Inside the cabin, exterior air is a persistent presence with its echo fanning over the interior.
By its close, Non-Stop will have to reproduce jet engines rocking the low-end (it does) and an awesome landing sequence with sparks, fire, plus more (likewise) solidifying the intensity of the mix. Adding flavoring is some altitude dropping panic with oxygen masks lightly swaying in each speaker, plus a few gunshots to perk things up. It’s a fun mix when it finally moves past the tension build.
Two throw-away promo featurettes are the lonesome bonuses, with Non-Stop Action detailing stunt work and Suspense at 40,000 Feet developing a story around the full feature’s creation. A dozen minutes of “meh” incoming.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.