Premise: A plane is abducted by an alien ship.
About: Dreamworks bought this in late March. Len Wiseman (Underworld) will produce and Patrick Tatopoulos will direct. ICM, who represents all parties, packaged the deal.
Writer: Michael Gilvary
First of all, I want to personally thank the person who sent me this. I have a similar idea about a plane that encounters an alien ship, and as all of us writers do when we hear of a similar idea to our own (especially one that’s sold), we want to see how they executed it.
If you’ve read my “Alien arrival” reviews before, you’ll know that I preach about the inherent problem with the genre. The movies are always top heavy because the anticipation of the aliens is always more exciting than the actuality of the aliens (with maybe War of The Worlds being the exception). Part of the problem is that we’ve seen it all. Until someone comes up with a different take, it’s usually a bunch of reptilian or bug-like creatures who want to take over earth. This happens in almost every one of these films. Remember Independence Day before we saw the aliens? It was actually a cool movie. Then the alien pops out, Will Smith yells “Hell naw” and everything goes to shit. “Signs” understood this problem to an extent, which is why it’s one of the better movies in the genre (don’t get me started on that ending though). And “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” is probably the best of the bunch because it knows that once the alien’s out of the bag, there’s no more suspense, which is why it waits til the very last scene to reveal them.
Enter Non-stop, which at the very least attempts to do something different. Instead of aliens falling on our precious planet, they take to the air and hijack one of our planes (actually, they hijack a lot of planes). The script starts off quite good. Matt, a handsome guy, is followed into the airport by his clingy mother, who’s trying to make sure he gets to the plane okay. Matt is 30. Their banter is hilarious. While just about everybody in the airport listens, mom asks Matt if he’s sure he’s going to be okay. It’s a cute little moment which instantly gives us sympathy for our lead.
From there we move quickly into the first class cabin of our doomed flight and meet the other main characters, MILF Marriane and her daughter Laney. Through limited conversation we learn that Matt lost his wife to a carjacking. He had a choice to stay in the car and protect her or get out and save himself. He chose to save himself – setting up the fact that he’s a selfish dickhead.
Liftoff. Ding. You may now roam around the cabin. Except they’re not in the air 10 minutes before BANG, a large JOLT rocks the plane. After more bumps, a lot more confusion, and a freefall of death, the plane suddenly stops – yes stops - and they’re still okay. Have they landed? What happened? What’s going on? Looking outside they realize they’re in some endless cavern. Since there’s nothing else to do, a few of the more brave passengers leave to look around (because yeah, that’s what I would do). It turns out to be a bad idea as within minutes we hear their screams of terror.
Taking a page from Aliens (if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best) curious little Laney, the daughter, sneaks off the plane to go exploring. This forces Marrienne and Matt to go look for her. They make their way through the cavern until they eventually find the other passengers being toyed with in some kind of torture chamber (and not the good kind).
This was the point where I lost interest in Non-stop. To take this neat idea and boil it down to aliens that are torturing/testing humans feels a bit uninspired. The rest of the script basically follows Matt and Marrienne looking for Lacy and a way off the ship. Even though there was no cell service in the ship, I’m not convinced that Matt didn’t find a way to call Peter from Dubai (see this review for reference), because out of nowhere he becomes some sort of superhero, wrestling aliens to decisive victories. Matt designs satellites by the way.
Matt’s old flaw kicks in when he must decide whether to save the few of them (the easy way out) or save the whole plane (a lot tougher). Unfortunately it never quite works because while Matt may have committed a selfish act in the past, he never comes off as selfish here on the ship. He seems like a genuinely good guy. The transformation is lost as a result.
There are some cool parts, including the discovery of thousands of aliens from different planets being held in containment bays that Matt decides to open. A melee of alien madness follows that I can only imagine will be a blast to watch onscreen. But the core story of Matt and Marienne chasing Laney feels really flat. Let’s hope they fix it in the rewrites.
Script link: Nonstop (script taken down at the request of writer)
[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Go a step further. Why are 99% of aliens in movies reptilian or bug-like? Because writers are used to it and don’t bother pushing themselves. Come up with something different that no one’s ever seen before. You’ll be rewarded and respected for your originality.