Non-Stop Ending, Explained: Who Hijacked the Plane and Why?

‘Non-Stop’ is an action-thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Jungle Cruise‘) and released in 2014. It stars Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in the lead roles. The film revolves around William “Bill” Marks, an alcoholic ex-NYPD officer turned US Air Marshal whose seemingly routine flight from New York City to London turns into a nightmare when he receives a series of threatening texts that jeopardize the safety of everyone on the flight. As the narrative progresses, Marks finds the odds stacked against him and the threat rising with each passing minute. How Marks succeeds in neutralizing the threat and finding the hijacker’s true identity forms the ending of ‘Non-Stop.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

Non-Stop Plot Synopsis

‘Non-Stop’ opens with William “Bill” Marks (Liam Neeson), a US Air Marshal who arrives outside the airport. It is implied that Marks lost his young daughter and has turned to alcoholism to deal with the pain. Marks boards a direct transatlantic flight from New York City to London. Marks is a former NYPD officer who was fired from his job around the time of his retirement. On the plane, Marks meets Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), sitting beside him. Summer exchanged her seat to get a window view, and she quickly befriends Marks.

After the plane takes off, the seemingly mundane and routine flight runs into trouble when Marks receives a text message claiming that someone on the aircraft will be killed every twenty minutes if  $150 million is transferred to the bank account mentioned in the message. Marks goes against protocol to discuss the threat with Jack Hammond (Anson Mount of ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘), who dismisses it as a prank. Marks asks Summers and flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery of ‘Defending Jacob‘) to monitor the security footage. Eventually, Marks discovers Hammond conversing with a mysterious person over the phone.

When Hammond tries to bribe him, Marks realizes that the text message is a credible threat and that the lives of the passengers are in danger. Marks and Hammond’s scuffle ends with the latter’s death, which coincides with the hijacker’s 20-minute death threat. However, Marks soon realizes the true perpetrator blackmailed Hammond to do their dirty bidding. Meanwhile, the plane’s pilot Captain David McMillan is poisoned and killed, forcing co-pilot First Officer Kyle Rice (Jason Butler Harner of ‘Rabbit Hole‘) to take over.

Marks continues searching for the potential hijacker and questions the passengers. However, one passenger records a video of Marks mistreating and shoving Tom Bowen (Scoot McNairy of ‘True Detective‘), a school teacher traveling on the flight. The video blows up on intent, framing Marks as the hijacker. Moreover, the bank account which is supposed to receive the ransom money is revealed to belong to Marks, further implicating him in the crime. Marks takes computer programmer Zack White’s help to uncover the hijacker’s identity after realizing the culprit is on the plane. However, his efforts trigger a 30-minute timer for a bomb, forcing Marks to race against time to save the lives of the passengers while dealing with the mysterious hijacker.

Non-Stop Ending: Who Hijacked the Plane and Why?

Marks is kicked into overdrive during the film’s final act as his search for the true culprit coincides with his duty to save the flight’s passengers. Marks realizes that the only way to stop the bomb is by finding the culprit and apprehending them. The passengers are enraged at Marks for mistreating them, and they attack the Air Marshal. However, Bowen convinces them to stop as the bomb could explode soon, killing them all. Therefore, it comes as a surprise twist when Bowen is revealed as the actual hijacker.

After going through the video uploaded online, Marks notices Bowen planting the phone that led him to the bomb on Charles Wheeler. Thus, it becomes evident that Bowen is the mastermind of the plane hijacking and confronts him. However, it becomes evident that Bowen is not working alone, and Zack White, the unsuspecting programmer who helped Marks is an accomplice. After he is caught, Bowen is forced to reveal his motivations behind the elaborate plan. Bowen explains that his father died in the 9/11 attacks.

Bowen and White served in the Armed Forces but grew weary of the United States’ security policies, especially at airports. As a result, Bowen, who appears financial in his approach to the problem, formulated a plan to frame marks for the plane hijacking. Thus, Bowen wanted to highlight the shortcomings of the security systems at the airport and convince the general public about the complacency of the United States Armed Forces in dealing with terrorist threats, especially after the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, Bowen’s words make it evident that he is on a suicide mission and does not plan on leaving the plane alive. However, he also hopes to kill his fellow passengers to make his point.

How Does Marks Save the Flight?

After Marks realizes that there is a bomb onboard the plane, he formulates a plan to minimize the damage in case it explodes. As a result, Marks asks the passengers to move to the front of the plane while the bomb is put at the rear, surrounded by the luggage, to force the impact outward, saving those inside. However, for Marks’ plan to succeed, the plane must descend from 30,000 to 8,000 feet, but the RAF Typhoon fighter jets guiding the aircraft to the landing spot in Iceland refuse to grant permission for the same. As a result, the only hope of saving the flight and its passengers is for Marks to force Bowen to disarm the bomb.

When Marks realizes that White does not share the fanatical ideas of Bowen, he tries to convince White to disarm the explosive device. However, Bowen turns on White and shoots him in the chest. Marks almost loses all hope of saving the flight, but Rice brings refuses to follow orders and brings the plane down to a height of 8,000 feet, allowing Marks to overpower Bowen in their tussle for the trigger. However, White attacks Marks, causing the bomb to explode. In the process, Bowen is killed, but Marks’ plan succeeds as there are no other casualties, and the flight lands safely despite the bomb going off.

Do Marks and Summers End Up Together?

Ultimately, Marks is able to save the day despite finding himself in a difficult situation, especially after Bowen frames him for hijacking the plane. However, after the plane lands, Marks is hailed as a hero and cleared of suspicions of being responsible for the plane hijacking. Before Marks departs, he and Summers share a tender moment where they share their admiration for each other. Earlier in the movie, Summers helps Marks in his quest to safeguard the passengers and find the hijacker. When the video framing Marks is uploaded, the passengers turn on Marks. However, Summers defends Marks and sticks by his side until the end. Thus, the film’s final moments help Summers and Marks express their gratitude for each other’s help during the daring endeavor on the flight. However, the conversation also has romantic undertones, implying that Marks and Summers are interested in seeing each other again. As a result, the incident helps Marks recover from the tragedies in his past, and his conversation with Summers implies he is open to moving forward in life.

Read More: Will There be Non-Stop 2?