In the middle of a Non Stop (see, thats the title right there) flight Bill, a lonesome alcoholic grumpus with a heart of gold, receives a message telling him that unless lots of money is transferred to a specific account, someone is going to die on the plane. He has twenty minutes to get to the bottom of it or transfer the money, or the whole cycle begins again. The thing is, Bill is Liam Neeson, and Liam Neeson has a very specific set of skills in every film he is in. Here his specific set of skills is plane based detective work, general fightin skills, and being awesome. In real life Liam Neeson has an OBE. Skills. Its a sort of air based whodunit, with added Neeson, there isn’t anything spectacularly original here, but its brilliantly made, ratchets up the tension well and is a lot of fun. The film relies heavily on something that everyone ambiguously refers to as “the network”, some kind of magical in flight wifi/phone system, so one assumes that in the Non Stop world the whole “can we use phones on planes” thing has been resolved. It also makes pretty heavy use of controversy surrounding air marshals (go figure), but doesn’t go out of its way to resolve anything. Anyway, its a solid watch, with Neeson doing what he does best , because really, who doesn’t want to see Neeson fighting four guys at once in a stewards cabin.
Robocop raised a lot of issues that could have just as easily been discussed in relation to Captain America : Winter soldier. Likewise, a lot of the issues surrounding the purpose and likability of the main character in that film apply here also (aka, go read that article too: http://wp.me/p2VTuq-9Q ) . In many respects the two films can be seen as very similar, they both feature a strong hero who has found themselves out of place, time, body – somehow, fighting against a larger, oppressive force that seeks to employ drones to control a population. That these two films deal so explicitly with this is indicative of increasing concerns around the use of drones both in combat situations and in everyday life. Or at least, this is what the studios would like you to think. That both of these films require that the drones they depict require no human intervention to decide, and act with lethal force upon their targets is equally indicative that there is a perception in Hollywood at least that this is a universally recognized line in the sand, to use the accepted political terminology. What is interesting though is the heroes. Both Captain America and Robocop are clearly products of very complicated technology. It is only because their ‘humanness’ is emphasized throughout that they are allowed to operate with lethal force. Both Captain America, and Robocop kill people. Within the logic of these films they are permitted to do so because they have the ability to determine the guilt of that person, an ability they possess because they are human, but one they can act upon because they are technologically advanced. In effect, whilst they are clearly attempting to stop the emergence of an authoritarian technocracy (in a literal sense) they are in fact instigating their own, micro, versions of that very same dystopia. Why is this a problem? It is only a silly Robocop action movie after all. Well, that is kind of the problem. When I sat down to watch Robocop I wanted to watch
robots/humans/cops/robohumans/hucops/romans/robocops fight in ridiculous action scenes, I didn’t ask for a social commentary that is so half thought through that it contradicts itself in a most spurious way. In fact, there are even action films which do this properly anyway (Judge Dredd, Blade Runner). What it all comes down to this, I want Robocop and Captain America to kick bad guys asses, and all the bad guys have to do to be bad guys is kill a few innocent bystanders, or maybe drop kick a baby to earn the wrath of our heroes, not bloody well build machines to kill every person on the planet in a sort of twisted version the first grand theft auto game. These films should be seen for what they are, attempts by the studio to engage with hot button issues in a vague (and vain) attempt to make their product seem more socially conscious and intelligent. We’ll see if the relative success of the no nonsense Expendables movies bears this out, but I don’t watch this type of film to think about the potential of our world to descend into technological warfare. If this means Arnie and Stallone have to be cryogenically frozen and wheeled out to make an old school action movie every five years, thats technology I am getting behind.