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Blackout Effect (1998)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama | Thriller  -  4 January 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 300 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 2 critic

There has been a mid-air collision involving a passenger jet and a cargo flight, killing everyone aboard the two planes. The NTSB investigator in charge, whose girlfriend died in the crash,... See full summary »



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Title: Blackout Effect (TV Movie 1998)

Blackout Effect (TV Movie 1998) on IMDb 5.8/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Dantley
Henry Drake
Frank Wyatt
Kim Garfield
Tim Connors
Tucker Smallwood ...
Joe Guzaldo ...
Dan Lafia
Paul Roth
Nancy Hower ...
Stephen Royer
Jeff Allin ...
William Kennedy
Catherine Parmel
Brian Mack
Jim Travis


There has been a mid-air collision involving a passenger jet and a cargo flight, killing everyone aboard the two planes. The NTSB investigator in charge, whose girlfriend died in the crash, is puzzled. On one side, the air traffic controller claims he lost radar contact with the cargo plane shortly before impact, when his screen "blacked out." On the other side, everyone else, including the controller's bosses and the media, put the blame on human error. The truth is soon to be uncovered, as the aging air traffic control facilities are on the verge of failing right in the middle of the busy Thanksgiving season. Written by Sergio Ortega

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »


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Release Date:

4 January 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Blackout  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the movie, the NTSB personnel continuously use the expression "black box", even among themselves. This is unlikely for aviation professionals, who would call it a Cockpit voice recorder or a Flight data recorder (depending on which part of the black box it is). See more »

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User Reviews

Could have been a serious look at an antiquated air-traffic control system – it isn't!
4 February 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

John Dantley investigates a midair collision between two planes that killed over 130 people. At first it appears human error is to blame, however the controller, Henry Drake, insists that a blackout causes one of the planes to disappear temporally from his screen. Dantley investigates to find a history of equipment failures and complaints has not been recorded and that Drake may be the most likely suspect. However with time things begin to look more complex than he first thought.

The story essentially is a condemnation of lack of investment in air-traffic control in contrast with spiralling air traffic. It could have coldly looked at that and been damning in effect, but instead it tries to turn it into a thriller and ruins it's credibility as a serious film. The glitch that caused the plane crash is far to specific to have it represent the whole system of the failure and Drake is far to suspicious (what was he doing on the CCTV? It's never satisfactorily revealed) to be an `everyman' type - in fact Drake is totally misused as the film changes his character to create a `tense' `standoff' finish to the film. Why?

Another example of the plot stretching to make it more of a TVM thriller than a serious movie is the way that Dantley's ex-girlfriend was on one of the planes that crashed. This adds nothing to the story and only succeeds in clouding the issue. The main point of the film is valid - that systems are close to breaking point and are not up to the job, but it's lost in a bigger conspiracy, Dantley's personal loss and Drake's unlikely actions at the end.

Charles Martin Smith is good right up till the very unlikely last 30 minutes, but Stoltz is mixed. At times he seems OK but some scenes are terrible - the one near the end where he confronts the site manager with a forced emotion and bad dialogue is a good (bad) example.

Overall, this has a valid point to make and it makes it well for much of the film. However the makers added too much baggage (a thriller climax, a dead ex etc) to make it work. Some scenes are great but mostly this is a C movie

  • and only for trying hard.

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