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Air Traffic Controllers. Never thought of them, not since Reagan fired 'em all, right? Well, this movie is the story of the people who control the world's busiest airspace around New York City and its three international airports. John Cusak plays Nick "The Zone" Falzone, the best of the best of the controllers. These people do some of the most stressful jobs in the country, and only flawless behaviour is tolerated. Into this world comes a new controller Russell Bell, calmly and properly played by Billy Bob Thorton, whose Zen approach to his job and his life cause Nick to fall apart because he can't grasp being second best.Cate Winslet and Angelina Jolie play their wives in a very interesting movie that has everything going for it until the end, which happens too quickly and conveniently.
I have some gripes about the opening sequence - Airlines do *NOT* fly over Manhattan, and that it would be insanity for anyone who works on Long Island to commute from New Jersey like they all seem to (Nick is seen driving past Exit 14 on the NJ Turnpike on his way home, so you tell me otherwise). Hmmm. Maybe that was the point. The people who work in air traffic control are probably crazy. I certainly wouldn't want their jobs!
"Land a million planes safely, and nobody bats an eye. Have one near miss, and you never hear the end of it" is a paraphrasing of a quote shown as the movie starts, and it supposedly comes from an interview with a real air traffic controller in the 80s. It truly helps you get into the mood of this movie, where it appears that everyone could snap if it all goes wrong. And it does. John Cusak was the proper person for his role, and falls apart accordingly. Unfortunately, his "opponent" in the movie is Billy Bob, and he's somewhat flat. I blame the writers for making him somewhat wooden in an attempt to make him less appealing. We never get to see what really makes him tick, and that's a shame. Without going into too much detail, the end of the movie could have been so much better if they didn't end it so abruptly. It kind of reminded me of the early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where there were a lot of problems and then all of a sudden Captain Picard would say something like "engage" or "Make it So" and the crisis would be over. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying it, but that's the gist of the end of this film.
I still recommend it, regardless of the ending, which you may not find as abrupt as I did.
One other comment I'll make is that I found it hard to believe that the Cate Blanchett we see here is the same one we saw in Elizabeth) - She must be a very good actress to be capable of pulling that off :-)