TBS Superstation’s newly formed original movies division has found a profitable ratings niche with B-movies such as “Fatal Error” and “Silent Predators.” Its latest entry, a marginally suspenseful thriller from director Armand Mastroianni, won’t win any awards for originality, but should keep the net’s success streak alive and well.
Mastroianni, at the helm here for his third telepic with TBS, creates a quick-paced story that almost works in real time. More than mild suspense, “Nowhere to Land” provides mindless diversion, as well as a big PR boost for airline professionals and security officials for the 2000 Summer Olympic in Sydney.
Pic introduces us to Captain John Prescott (Jack Wagner), a devoted family man who’s anxious to get home in time to celebrate his 10th wedding anniversary. Prescott wants the flight to go smoothly to impress his old mentor, retired pilot George Eller (James B. Sikking), and to show novice co-pilot Kim McGee (Christine Elise) the ropes of the long flight.
It isn’t until the plane is at the equal time point over the longest stretch of water between Hawaii and Los Angeles that the crew learns that a jealous ex-husband of one of the passengers has placed a bomb on the plane. With nowhere to land and one hour before detonation, expert Danny Gorlin (Ernie Hudson) must talk Prescott through diffusing the bomb via phone from his desk in LA.
Both Mastroianni and writer Matt Dorff indulge in cliches, including the family-man hero, the psycho bad guy and the usual roster of sitting ducks onboard a doomed flight. In fact, the only staples missing here are the nun with the guitar and the crying baby.
But thankfully, we’re spared detailed personal stories of the passengers. Instead, action is split between Prescott’s harrowing attempt to defuse the bomb and the on-ground chase to find the mad bomber, led by American FBI agent Mike Tanner (Damien Pike), who is in Australia for a pre-Olympic security briefing.
Wagner and Elise, looking for all the world like prototypes for Captain Ken and co-pilot Barbie, actually perform well in their respective roles. Wagner, despite a soap filled past, proves he could cultivate a decent career as a second tier Jack Ryan-like hero.
As Gorlin, Hudson has the tough job of acting with a telephone for most of the movie, but handles it like a pro. His character’s basketball analogies, which he uses to talk Prescott through the ordeal, are a bit forced, but help to give the role some personality.
Secondary perfs, including a patriarchal turn by Sikking, are noticeably short, despite his character’s lifesaving heroics and even then, he’s practically unmentioned.
Louis Febre’s music is a bit overdone but technical credits are polished with Nino Martinetti utilizing Sydney’s picturesque locales to great benefit.