Pushing Tin - rated - TEPID

Nice Takeoff, Shame about the Nose Dive

I thought I'd love this film. Look at the pedigree. Director: Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, 1997, Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1994, among many other films). Stars: John Cusack, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie and, unfortunately, the vastly overrated Billy Bob Thornton. Subject: The stress involved in being an air traffic controller. With bones like these, you'd think you couldn't lose.

But something goes awry. What starts out as a very funny and worrying tale of macho, macho men turns into a far-fetched-contest of sexual prowess, with the women as mere pawns in the game. How dreary!

Where were the aeroplanes spectacularly crashing? Where were the "near misses"? Where were the passengers, blissfully unaware of their fates? Apart from one scene in which John Cusack believes his rival is trying to crash the plane he's on (which disappointingly moves from funny-scary into Opera Buffo in a trice) we see little of this. Instead of giving us an insightful character-study of the men and women in this most extraordinary of professions, we get a tedious study of 3 relationships we don't understand because we aren't given enough information. And then we get a reconciliation which is too silly even to go into here.

Whatever happened to Mike Newell? In such a technical subject, how could he give us such broad brush, cartoonish situations? Why do we have caricatures instead of characters? All the actors (even Billy Bob Thornton and his amazing repertoire of funny teeth) work mightily to breathe life into their characters. Cate does the best here, I think. But it's not enough to save the film from taking a nose-dive shortly after reaching cruising altitude.