See This/Skip That: From Non-Stop to Ernest & Celestine
The fun of Non-Stop is that it's an action thriller and a whodunit, says PEOPLE's critic
From Non-Stop to Ernest & Celestine, here’s what to see and what to skip in theaters this weekend.
It was Col. Mustard on the airplane with the candlestick. Yes, the fun of Non-Stop is that it’s like a hijack version of Clue, with a whole gang of suspects threatening to take out passengers on an international flight. The movie is so twisty, even its ostensible hero, played by Liam Neeson, is a person of interest.
Non-Stop reunites Neeson with his Unknown director, Jaume Collet-Serra, and it’s clear the two learned something from that half-hearted effort, since this latest outing is far more engaging. The action picks up with Neeson’s air marshal Bill Marks receiving spooky text messages as soon as his flight from New York to London takes off.
The gist: Someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes, unless the mysterious texter gets $150 million wired into a secure account. Marks doesn’t take the threat particularly seriously at first – how do you get away with murder at 30,000 feet, anyway? That’s a mistake.
The hijacker gets Marks’s full attention in short order, leading the ex-cop to go on a hunt for suspects. Is it the hot redhead, Jen (Julianne Moore), who changed seats to be next to him? The pretty flight attendant (Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery) who’s a little too attentive? Or could it be one of the belligerent gents back in coach? (Um, they’re in coach. That’s enough to make anyone surly.) Here’s a scary thought for frequent fliers: What if it’s the air marshal, himself? Why not? He certainly looks capable.
With solid pacing, a wonderful knack for creating red herrings, and Neeson’s own middle-aged badass charisma, Non-Stop coasts at a comfortable altitude for a thriller that’s ultimately silly, but always entertaining.
Neeson and Moore make their characters likeable, but not exactly trustworthy, while a string of great character actors (Corey Stoll, Nate Parker, Scoot McNairy and Linus Roache) pass around suspicion like it’s a hot potato. The only miss is Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o as a flight attendant with absolutely nothing to do. Why waste such talent on a throwaway role? Still, if you’re looking for escapist fun this weekend, Non-Stop will get you there on time.
And Take The Kids to This
Ernest & Celestine
This delightful French-Belgian Oscar nominee gets an English translation this week that does nothing to dull the charm of the original. Rendered in a washed-out color palette and simplistic drawing style, Ernest & Celestine is an adorable confection about the bonds of friendship. The bonus is that it’ll let you introduce your kids to Lauren Bacall.
Artist Celestine (Twilight‘s Mackenzie Foy) is an outcast in her rodent orphanage, where she draws scenes of mice befriending their mortal enemies, the bears. The Grey One (a wonderfully menacing Bacall, as a rat who runs the orphanage) tells horribly scary stories about what evil bears do, putting the lie to Celestine’s fanciful pictures.
When Celestine is out collecting teeth in the bear village (think of mice as the tooth fairies of the animal world), she meets the starving Ernest (Forest Whitaker), a street musician who’d just as soon eat her as befriend her. As it happens, they do strike up a friendship, and one that faces incredible tests from both their communities.
Fantastic voice performances fill the film, from the Whitaker and Foy’s odd-couple routine to Jeffrey Wright and Paul Giamatti as judges, William H. Macy as a rat dentist, and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally as bear parents. True, Ernest & Celestine may not look or sound like big-budget American animated films, but that just makes the experience even more special.