In the film Pilot Error, a plane disappears over the Atlantic Ocean, and Nicola (Kate Thomsen) devotes her life to finding out the truth about the disaster that took her best friend's life. She is not merely driven by her journalistic tenacity, but also a fair amount of guilt. For reasons tied into the film's plot, Nicola's fear of flying affected her friend's decision to board the plane. Loosely based on the investigations surrounding the crash of the 2009 Air France Flight 447, Pilot Error examines the lengthy process of solving the mystery of such tragedies.
Pilot Error details all the wrongs that brought down the plane -- arguably in too great detail. Expository monologues abound about pitot tubes, air traffic control errors, managerial negligence, the lack of pilot training and everything else involved in the doomed flight. A script editor would have helped make these stretches a little more natural and less like spoken essays. See also: plain old cinematic editing. There is no lack of montages. Nicola deals with her grief; she exercises; she sets up a video blog. Everything is too spelled out. The movie could easily lose 30 minutes of its running time without losing its message.
This is a local movie, filmed mostly in Milwaukee and the Fox Valley, which makes it fun to play Spot the Location. It is also peopled with Midwestern talent. Thomsen has a charming presence as the gawky and neurotic Nicola, but plays her part large, like the theater actress she is. American Players Theatre mainstay Deborah Staples is a nice contrast as Nicola's more stable but ill-fated friend, while Larry Herron is vibrant and charismatic as Nicola's love interest, Rob.
Pilot Error will have two screenings at Point Cinema April 1 at 4 and 7 pm. Both screenings will be followed by talkbacks with Deborah Staples, screenwriter Roger Rapoport and Capt. Robert Hasselbein, chairman of the National Security Committee of the Air Line Pilots Association, who served as technical adviser on the film.