Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Seventeen years ago, Harrison Ford grumbled four simple words that defined a genre, a demographic, and a country: "Get off my plane." In a pre-9/11 world, there was no shortage of jingoistic glee in a movie like Air Force One, in which a man's man American president doled out justice to a militia of Russian loyalist terrorists who made the silly mistake of attempting to hijack his flight home from Moscow. In 2014, we don't have the luxury of facing a plotline like this with reckless merriment. There's a damp gravity to the premise behind movies like Non-Stop, which in another time would have been nothing more than Taken on a Plane. But rigidly conscious of the connotations that attach to a story about a hijacking of a civilian international flight into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, Non-Stop doesn't play too fast and loose. It still plays, and has some good fun doing so, but carefully.
From the getgo, we're anchored into the grim narrative of Liam Neeson's U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks, who settles his demons with a healthy spoonful of whiskey. A dutiful officer even when liquored up, Marks eyeballs every nameless face in London's Heathrow Airport, silently introducing the bevvy of characters who'll come into play later on. After takeoff, Marks finds himself on the unwitting prowl for the anonymous party who's attempting to take down the red-eye through a series of manipulative text messages, well-timed threats, and clandestine killings. Chatty passenger Julianne Moore and flight attendant Michelle Dockery join Marks in his efforts to identify the mysterious criminal before the entire aircraft falls to his or her whims. So less Taken, more Murder, She Wrote.
Our roundup of suspects challenges our (and their) preconceived notions, and quite laughably — most vocal among Neeson's fellow passengers are a white beta-male school teacher (Scoot McNairy), a black computer engineer with an attitude of entitlement (Nate Parker), a softspoken Middle Eastern surgeon whose headwear gets more than a few focal shots (Omar Metwally), a middle-aged white businessman whose latest account landed him more than your house is worth (Frank Deal), an irate black youngster draped in irreverence (Corey Hawkins), and a white, bald, machismo-howling New York cop who secretly accepts his gay brother (Corey Stoll). Just a few talking heads short of Do the Right Thing, Non-Stop manages to goof on each man's (notice that they're all men — Moore, Dockery, and a barely-in-the-movie Lupita Nyong’o are kept shy of the action for most of the film) distaste for and distrust of one another as they each try to sidle up to, or undermine the harried Marks.
Non-Stop plays an interesting game with its characters and its audience, simultaneously painting the ignorance of its characters with a thick coat of comedy while pointing its finger straight out at us with accusations that we, too, thought it was whoever we just learned it wasn't, and for all the wrong reasons. "Shame on you!" Non-Stop chides, adding, "But let's keep going, this is fun!"
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It is fun — that's the miraculous thing. Without any "Get off my plane"s or "Yippee ki yay"s, Non-Stop keeps its action genre silliness in check (okay, there is a moment involving an airborne gun that'll institute some serious laugh-cheers), investing all of its good time in the game of claustrophobic Clue that we can't help but enjoy. It sacrifices some of its charm in a heavy-handed third act, tipping to one side of what was a pretty impressive balancing act up until that point. But its falter is not one that drags down the movie entirely. Fun and excitement are restored, sincerity is maintained, and even a few moments of sensitivity creep their way through. We might not live in a world of President Harrison Fords any longer, but Air Marshall Liam Neesons could actually be a step up.
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Look. We know you love Scandal. We know you kind of want to be Olivia Pope. And we get that your Christmas wish list consisted of mainly Scandal-related paraphernalia. But the ABC drama series, now in the midst of a pretty epic third season, is a dangerous show to get addicted to, especially if you've been taking any relationship cues from the main characters. We love these guys, but here are a few Scandal folks you probably, definitely, should not call if you need some healthy advice on love.
Abby (played by Darby Stanchfield) has put her boyfriend through the ringer so many times, it's sad. Poor David Rosen can't get a break, with Abby stealing Cytron cards from him, lying to him to cover for Olivia Pope & Associates, and asking about a gazillion favors from him now that he's the U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C. Now that the two are open about their job descriptions, Abby and David are a much better couple. But Abby's a Gladiator first, which could prove detrimental to this relationship (again).
Cyrus has done so many horrible, awful, grimey things to his husband James, it's difficult to know where to begin. There was that time he put a hit out on him. That time he got him a baby, just so James would stop working as a journalist and stop dipping into all of Cyrus's political dirt. But all of that paled in comparison to the stunt he pulled this season. If you were ever thinking of getting ahead of your political opponent, probably don't use your husband as sexual bait for that opponent's closeted gay husband. Bad idea.
We love Fitz. But seriously. In three seasons we've watched him bounce back and forth between Olivia and his wife Mellie (okay, more Olivia than Mellie), plus there was that Amanda Tanner situation. We know he loves Olivia, but there was that one unforgivable, postcoital conversation they had in which he told Olivia, "I may not be able to control my erections around you, but that doesn’t mean I want you. We are done." Ouch. And no.
Olivia herself has openly admitted on the show that she is a hot mess when it comes to love. She's kind of a mistress, kind of not. She dated Senator Davis and pretty much led him on, refusing to tell him that she was totally still in love with the President. Then there was the Jake versus Fitz fiasco (actually, that may still be ongoing). Now don't get us wrong -- this all makes for great television. And this character has had some wonderful, empowering moments on the series. But we think it'll be a while before Olivia finds herself in a drama-free relationship.