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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Success at 30,000 Feet
by Richard Jack Smith

Jaume Collet-Serra's Non-Stop joins an elite class of airborne thrillers - the kind that matters. Alongside Executive Decision and Air Force One, this film demonstrates that casting the right actor can make any scenario believable. Liam Neeson belongs in the blockbuster realm, fighting for what's right against formidable odds. He causes each plot twist to seem inevitable, yet powerfully realized. 

I imagine quite a few people have found themselves stuck in a situation surrounded by on-lookers who failed to properly understand what was really going on. Neeson navigates this mine-field like a born again commando. The result? Non-Stop builds toward a thrilling climax.

Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) leads a chaotic life, battling the daily temptation of booze, so he can forget a deep, personal tragedy. Someone knows about his past and attempts to cause him further grief. On a flight to London, the secure, encrypted message system he uses for work receives an anonymous message. The sender demands immediate payment of $150 million or the passengers will be eliminated one by one. To make things even stranger, the account number belongs to the marshal. 

Taut, crisp pacing from editor Jim May maintains an iron grip on the pressure switch. Non-Stop has electricity in its veins, yet the final 20 minutes could be the best part. Aside from Neeson, the performances range from excellent to good. A fellow law-man, played by Corey Stoll, makes a huge impression. Each passenger has a random, everyday quality, which makes guessing the villain's identity most compelling.

It's easy to dismiss Julianne Moore's contribution as nothing more than a casual diversion. Yet, she reveals hidden dimensions of humanity, which call to mind many of her great early performances in pictures such as Boogie Nights and The End of the Affair.

Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery delivers a noteworthy collection of worried expressions. Above all, she steps into the role of a conscientious air stewardess with seamless aplomb.

Although composer John Ottman fails to find the right volume for his music -- which has to contend with much louder dialogue and sound effects -- his most effective work can be heard during the end credits. By this time, the other elements have been safely muted out.

Visual effects perform a more laid-back duty than normal here. No doubt some green screen was used, yet various lighting ideas related to heavy weather conditions help to sell the reality of flight.  

As of this writing, security measures initiated by the wake-up call of 9/11 are monitored closer than ever. Interestingly, a central theme of Non-Stop concerns the potential vulnerability of such procedures in the digital terrorism epoch.     

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" by MPAA.)

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