Within the first few moments of the blockbuster “Non-Stop,” we watch air marshal Bill Marks throw back a few swigs of liquor and stare longingly at a photo of his daughter. Once in the air, he tapes the smoke detector in the lavatory so he can have an illegal smoke 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. In consideration of these negligent actions, no one is too inclined to sympathize for Liam Neeson’s character.
Soon, he receives a text demanding an astronomical ransom. No one on the plane is safe, for every twenty minutes the demand is not met a passenger will be killed. The lives of the passengers on the 767 were in his hands, you cheer for Marks because they depend on him. Now you want Marks to win, unless of course you’re one of the terrorists.
But why the sudden change of heart? The movie presents background information that makes his struggles human. You learn that Marks struggles with alcoholism because his daughter died of cancer and his wife left him. You discover that he lost himself in his previous career with the New York Police Department so that he would not have to watch his daughter suffer. Characters are easily demonized when only their actions are seen; once the events that led up to their flawed state are revealed we can begin to empathize.
Everyone possesses different flaws and we all depend on other flawed people. Their lives consist of a wide range of messes. They have addictions and have made horrid choices, yet we still cheer them on. They’re perfect in the sense that they’re human.
Although the action sequences in “Non-Stop” were perfected through Hollywood magic, the characters’ lives were left untouched. That is why we cheer for them: we see a bit of ourselves in them.