Hold Your Breath


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            For one hour, Non-Stop is that rare and welcome pleasure: a first rate cerebral thriller. After that, bending to the requisite Hollywood mayhem, it indulges in a ludicrous mid-air escalation of violence. Even in its decline, it is mercifully humane compared to the accompanying trailers we had suffered before the movie began. One upcoming movie was shown with this plotline: ĒAll crimes in this country will be legal for a 24 hour period.Ē How about that for a premise? But, thatís the movie chain system: violent film, violent trailers, You donít preview The Conjuring and follow it with Snow White.
            Back to Non-Stop, and with delight. Liam Neeson is the essence of personal power. He needs no gestures, tools, or even words. Itís just there in his quiet intelligence. Whether heís hero or villain Ė and heís equally good at both - just try looking at anyone else when heís on screen. He owns it without saying a word. Julianne Moore does a fine job as a mysterious, flirtatious passenger, and thereís good fun in watching Michelle Dockery as an American flight attendant in a changeup from her regular turn on Downton Abbey.
            In Non-Stop Neeson plays William Marks, federal air marshal, and we learn before a word is spoken that he has a drinking problem. Armed with that information, we are eager to learn the why of it. After Bill is seated next to Jen (Julianne Moore), he receives a text on his cell phone: ďIn exactly 20 minutes Iím going to kill someone on this plane. I want $150,000,000.Ē Until he gets it he will kill a passenger every 20 minutes.
            Cell phones are major players as the villain taunts us repeatedly with plot twists that immerse us in an avalanche of shifting loyalties and surprises. A good part of the fun lies not just in the guessing game about the identity of the texter but in trying to decipher his motive. Is it really about money? That seems too simplistic as well as too difficult to pull off. What he does have in place is an inspired plan to defeat Marshal Marks by playing on Marksí recent fall from grace after a personal tragedy. The texter peppers us with questions as Marks tries desperately to identify the culprit, and we are part of that game. Thatís the good part.
            All too soon we are dropped into an overwrought finale - an explosion of fisticuffs, betrayals, and sudden new alliances. The effect is one of leaving in the middle of a great detective story to plunge into an action figure movie - like those trailers we had been forced to watch. But hereís the truth of it: it was very hard work trying to pick a suspect from 150 passengers, so be grateful that the movie will do it for you. And if you arenít terrified in the final eight second countdown, then you really canít consider yourself a genuine movie lover.

Distributor : Universal
Word Count : 499
Running Time : 1:46
Rating : PG-13

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