Pushing Tin, DVD version
Four out of five stars
In one sense, this movie has been made several times before, a married man (John Cusack) in a stressful job (air traffic controller) encounters the beautiful wife (Angelina Jolie) of a co-worker (Billy Bob Thornton) and her marriage is in serious trouble. She is drinking heavily in an ineffective way to cope. The affair leads to the married man having his wife (Cate Blanchett) and children leave him and his life falls apart. He experiences a tremendous low before managing to come back and appear to win his wife and job back.
What makes this movie different is the character of Russell Bell, played by Billy Bob Thornton. Before he arrived, Nick Falzone, played by John Cusack, is the best controller of the group. However, Russell Bell quickly demonstrates that he is a better controller, doing things with ease that the others would not attempt. Bell is an enigma to all of his co-workers in how he works and plays, he just seems to be able to do everything well, from shooting hoops to singing. He is a character that you puzzle over, trying to determine what makes him function.
Bell is portrayed as half Native American, even wearing a feather when he works. There are many cynical undercurrents, for example the controllers make bets among themselves as to whether a former co-worker will even be able to come back into the building. There is a powerful macho contest between Bell and Falzone, yet the competitiveness is almost totally one-sided, all coming from Falzone.
If it were not for the character of Russell Bell, this would be at best an average movie.