1999; Rated R; 124 Minutes
John Cusack: Nick Falzone
Billy Bob Thornton: Russell Bell
Cate Blanchett: Connie Falzone
Angelina Jolie: Mary Bell
Jake Weber: Barry Plotkin
Michael Flynn, Alan Greenspan and Art Linson; Directed
by Mike Newell; Screenwritten by Glen and Les
by DAVID KEYES
TV campaigns announced "Pushing Tin" as a comedy about the
lives of air traffic controllers, its future became uncertain.
The distinct indicator was the premise: a story about two
air traffic controllers. After all, this is something that
moviegoers have probably never seen before. And no wonder;
the subject is complex and odd, one that would be difficult
to tackle successfully. When people finally saw the previews,
only one question remained: If no one has seen air traffic
control in the movies so far, was it worth seeing now?
answer? Yes and no. "Pushing Tin" receives a 'yes' for the
fascinating plot and characters, and a 'no' for a pathetic
wrap-up. Director Mike Newell, whose past credits include
the outrageous "Four Weddings And A Funeral," and writers
Glen and Les Charles, treat the subject with charismatic
wit. The movie plays well in the first half, because it
introduces four characters that are both charming and observant,
and the plot builds up an amusing tension between two hotshot
air-traffic controllers. But then, just when the film begins
picking up momentum, it loses fuel and slows down with contrived
climaxes, all of which lead up to a typical feel-good studio
ending that crashes nose-first on impact. The early half
of the picture is a pacesetter, and the second is a devised
series of sentimental situations. Add these two factors
together, and you get "Pushing Tin," a film that is, specifically,
what it's worth, though, it has a lot of merit. The film
stars John Cusack as a hotshot air traffic controller named
Nick Falzone, whose job involves sitting in an office, staring
at an observation screen and shouting landing instructions
to the planes overhead. His instructions are given swiftly
and precisely, until, hopefully, the entire set of airplanes
have been landed safely and all lined up nicely. The way
the movie embarks on these events, it wants to make the
air-traffic controllers celebrities. At least, that's the
way the office treats them.
it doesn't last long for Falzone. Soon he's got competition,
when Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton), a man of few words
but many expressions, enters town and quickly finds his
way to the top of the air traffic controlling ladder. He
is low-profile, awkward man from the south, who once stood
on a runway during the landing of a 747, just to feel the
effects of 'backwash.' Early on, there is a scene in a bar
where one of the controllers questions Bell about one of
the stunts he pulled at an airport in New Mexico. Bell denies
the hearsay, at first, but while the crew is laughing and
feeling relieved, he merely corrects them, stating that
the event actually happened in Arizona rather than New Mexico.
Then, apparently, the crew feels astonished.
of the plot is a macho competition, where both Falzone and
Bell contend for the top honors at their air traffic office,
all while getting into sticky situations with each others
wives. Cate Blanchett, the brilliant actress who shone in
"Elizabeth," is Falzone's wife, and does a good job with
the character that has been written for her, even though
it is underdeveloped. On the other hand, Angelina Jolie
as Bell's wife, Mary, is suave and interesting, not just
as a wife but as an acquaintance to her husband's rival.
Falzone, not surprisingly, enjoys her company, and that
is visible in the scenes they have together: at first in
a grocery store, then in a restaurant, and lastly, in Mary's
bedroom. Movies like this love to squander the characters
in endless adultery, but thankfully, "Pushing Tin" doesn't
go farther than needed.
if only the ending had not been so nauseating. Every once
in awhile, with a movie like this, the studio finds it necessary
to end the film with some sort of touchy-feely conclusion,
as part of their longtime belief that, if a movie doesn't
end happily, it's not always good. Here, the conclusion
is filmed by fishing streams in the mountains, where Thornton's
character opens up for the first time, and Cusack's becomes
sidetracked from his tremendous ego trip and just sits there,
listening to what the other has to say. The dialogue is
all feel-good, sentimental garbage, matched with equally
the movie is not that concerned about pesky conclusions.
It is more concerned about investigating these rivals and
their wives down to the core, not just so we get to know
them, but also for giving them the chance to get to know
each other. The bottom line here is that "Pushing Tin" works
overall, even though it might have been much better if the
last half didn't get all sappy.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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