Newest Review: ... Jack gives up his career after such a disaster is completely understandable. The only extra with the DVD is the trailer - perhaps not s... more
Commencing countdown, engines on?
Ground Control (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Ground Control (DVD)
Advantages: Not a bad thriller, Kiefer Sutherland is good
Disadvantages: Not particularly exciting
Released back in 1998, when Kiefer Sutherland wasn't exactly at the top of his game, this film is largely unknown and is now relegated to the bargain bucket. Nevertheless, it isn't a terrible film and there are certainly lots of familiar faces. Sutherland is good in his role as Jack Harris. Harris is suffering from a massive crisis of confidence following the plane crash and seems to have thrown himself into his new job, which takes up most of his free time as well. His panic attacks on his return to work are realistic and help to make the audience more sympathetic to the character, as does the brief flirtation he enjoys with a young female colleague (although Jack doesn't appear to notice at first). This isn't Sutherland's best performance, but it's certainly more than adequate.
The others are most definitely secondary characters. Bruce McGill plays T C Bryant, Jack's former colleague, but apart from being an instrument to bring Harris back to the career he loves, he had no real role to speak of. It was good to see Robert Sean Leonard (House) as one of the team that is against Harris and it looks for a while as if the role will develop further - certainly his character has the most about him outside of Jack - but it doesn't in the end. Kristy Swanson is fine as Jack's love interest, but apart from looking flustered and/or attracted to Jack, she doesn't have much to do. Finally, it was good to see Henry Winkler and Kelly McGillis in their roles, but their familiar faces had more of an impact than their characters did.
Disaster movies are usually fast moving and full of action. This one is quite different. Based almost exclusively within an airport control room and the tension is created from the characters and really not knowing what is going to happen next. This could have worked really well, but unfortunately is probably the main reason why the film has largely disappeared from most people's radars. The pacing doesn't quite work. The first part of the film involves the plane crash that scuppered Jack's career, then the middle part starts, when he is called back as a controller. This teeters along for a while, and there are a few red herrings thrown in which are then discarded. Then it almost feels like the film is over when the final part starts. I just felt that the film peaked and troughed too much and ended up being much less effective than it could have been.
Then there are a number of threads that seem to be thrown in for no apparent reason. A number of reviewers on imdb.com claim that the technical aspects of the control room are incorrect. I can only take their word for it - that certainly didn't have much of an impression on me because I know nothing about airport control rooms. However, there did seem to be an awful lot going wrong all at the same time and just as one thing was fixed, something else gave up the ghost. One of the technicians claimed that they couldn't have the computers on at the same time as the air conditioning, for example. On top of that, there was a random saboteur and a private pilot who apparently has little idea how to fly his own plane.
On a more positive note, the film did grow on me as it progressed, mainly because of Kiefer Sutherland's performance. This was strong enough to keep me watching - and I'd go as far as to say that without it, this film would definitely have bombed. I particularly enjoyed his relationship with the pilot of the plane about to crash - this is very sensitively done. I was also fascinated by the portrayal of the air traffic controllers. Air disasters in the news tend to focus on the passengers and crew, but this film really brings home the tremendous responsibility that those on the ground have. The fact that Jack gives up his career after such a disaster is completely understandable.
The only extra with the DVD is the trailer - perhaps not surprising considering the lack of hype around the film.
I thought this film was reasonable; Sutherland did a great job, but with a badly organised story, it was hard for him to bring off a miracle. Fans of disaster films are also likely to be disappointed because the action is so low key. However, if you are a fan of Kiefer Sutherland, or come across the DVD for a low price, then it is worth giving it a go. I have certainly seen much worse films. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £2.99. I bought mine from Tesco for just £1.
Classification: 15 (not entirely sure why - there is nothing violent or sexual discussed or portrayed)
Running time: 93 minutes
Summary: An average thriller