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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Review of the film, Non-Stop

Catch me if you can!

One more aeroplane thriller? Indeed! Non-Stop offers a few new twists but fails to explain apparently illogical and far-fetched premises. Some rapid-fire technical jargon, and the villain’s motivation, would even qualify as ‘flights of fancy’.

An alcoholic Federal Air Marshal (whose duty is to escort US flights, to prevent terrorist attacks and hijacking attempts) Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) has to identify and pre-empt an on-board bad-man, who threatens to start killing one passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into a particular bank account. He regularly communicates with Marks via the plane’s wi-fi network, using SMS, but all attempts to trace him prove futile. In a clever twist, the account turns out to be in Marks’ own name. While trying to identify the culprit, Marks is tricked into killing a colleague, the other Marshal travelling on-board, in what is perhaps the script’s weakest moment.

A number of passengers serve as red herrings, in true Agatha Christie style, including Julianne Moore, the film’s female lead, as well as the burly Corey Stoll (House of Cards), who plays an NYPD cop, Chief Flight Attendant (Michelle Dockery) and another Attendant, played by Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, wasted in an insignificant role) and a nerve specialist doctor (Omar Metwally, wearing a traditional Muslim cap).

Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax remake, Orphan, Unknown), of Spain, directs this American-French co-production, which has screenplay by John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle. Sadly, there are just about as many loopholes or incredible situations as there are interesting and smart moves. Marks’ failure to immediately suspect the passenger seated right next to him of having obtained information about him, his back-story, the Muslim doctor’s stereotyping and his dual medical strengths, the little child’s toy and the ribbon ploy--are all contrived bits the film could have done without.

In the first few minutes, the narrative tries to build some suspense about the identity of the characters, including Marks, but the idea does not work, since the plot has not unfolded enough for them to look for the leads. The scene in which Neeson commands rebellious passengers to calm down by unilaterally promising them a year’s worth of free trans-Atlantic flights, an offer he repeats lest its significance be lost in dialogue, draws guffaws. We humans are greedy, for sure, but in the context, it appears a bit much.

Serra has worked with Neeson earlier and they come off as a good team. In the end, however, Neeson appears wasted. His rich, expressive, face and voice are out of place as a smoking-hard drinking policeman and sulking-irresponsible father/husband. Is this the same actor who played Schindler? Julianne Moore comes across as pesky and intrusive, in conformity with her role, but the spark is missing. Corey Stoll and Omar Metwally are adequate. There are some well composed mood music pieces by John Ottman.

Non-Stop tries to give an unfamiliar colour to a familiar scenario, but is short on action and character credibility, and often too clever for its own good.

Rating: **1/2

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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