Perhaps the nicest thing that can be said about Ground Control is that it's easily the second-best film about air-traffic controllers to be released over the past few months—the first being, of course, the sprawling and inconsistent Pushing Tin, a film Ground Control resembles in plot and setting, if not scope or ambition. Essentially a competent, unremarkable disaster movie told from the perspective of a motley group of air-traffic controllers, the film tells the story of a washed-up ex-air traffic controller (a tired-looking Kiefer Sutherland) whose career has undergone a steep decline following a tragic airplane crash he was unable to prevent. One very stormy, busy winter night, however, Sutherland is called back into action by his old boss, who realizes that beneath Sutherland's mild-mannered demeanor lies the heart of a truly great air-traffic controller. Soon, he's helping out a veritable Love Boat of a ground crew, staffed by such Hollywood Squares-ready pop-culture dead weight as Family Ties paterfamilias Michael Gross, mid-'80s sex symbol Kelly McGillis, All American Girl-turned-glorified-extra Margaret Cho, and inexplicable mid-'70s emblem of cool Henry Winkler in the Brad Dourif role of the mentally shaky, burned-out mechanic. Filled with one-dimensional characters, dialogue consisting of little more than technical gobbledygook interspersed with bland clichés, and predictable plot twists, Ground Control is nevertheless effective in an extremely modest way. The only truly surprising thing about it is its relentless glamorization of the air-traffic-controlling trade: From the filmmakers' relentlessly fawning and awestruck tone toward the seemingly mundane job, you'd think the life of an air-traffic controller is only slightly less exciting and dramatic than the life of, say, an astronaut or a movie star.

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