Disaster movies, by their very nature, usually rely on epic aerial shots to remind people that we're relatively puny and insignificant. Writer and director Lorene Scafaria takes a different approach, opting for ground-level vision of the apocalypse that focuses on a more intimate picture of total loss. It's a bittersweet romantic comedy that most likely left you, as a motion picture pilot who specializes in providing sweeping views from above, feeling a little left out. Then again, it's possible you were the inspiration for the entire film.
Dodge (Steve's Carrell) is first introduced as he learns that an impossible Michael Bay-like mission to save the planet from an oncoming asteroid has failed. His stupefied wife, who's also in the car, immediately abandons him and never looks back. Dodge, meanwhile, carries on like an emotional zombie and tries to maintain his dismal status quo. I assume your contributions up until this point, professionally and personally, were not included. Who knows, you may have had an equivalently spectacular relationship crash this was based on, but the pathos the director is going for at this point is mainly hyperbolic.
Eventually we meet Penny (Keira Knightly), a British ex-pat who missed the final flight home. This unfortunate event leads to some distinctly Knightly-esque neurotics that could only have appeared subtle from 10,000 feet above. So the twitchiest actress in Hollywood follows Hollywood's favourite sad clown under a suspicious promise that he can help 'aerial coordinate' her home. See, you're the hero!
Along the way, we have a couple fun stops (like the orgy-prone restaurant Friendsy's) and at least one pointless side trip to some survivalists that feels forced into the fold. The road trip sequence never lives up to the atmosphere in the first act, when the world is slowly falling apart around Dodge, but the film lands a smooth third act that doesn't shy away from it's dark premise. The plot offers just enough moments of dread to balance out the genre's predisposition for optimism.
The final view may not be as grand as a man of the skies would have liked, but for once it's nice to see a far-fetched story stay grounded.
Clearing you for landing,