NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Spectre!
Inspired by a True Story
Roman Melynk (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a hardworking construction foreman respected by the men he works with. He checks in with his coworker Matt (Glenn Morshower) and tells him they will come in a day ahead of schedule on their latest job. Matt tells Roman to go home and get the house ready for the arrival for his wife and daughter, the three of them getting together for the Christmas holidays. Matt smiles, noting that Roman is about to become a grandfather and orders him to take the following day off as well.
Roman goes home, checks on the house, showers, and changes into new clothes. As he goes to leave, he looks at the sonogram of his grandchild, smiling.
Roman arrives early at the airport early, with a bouquet of flowers. He notices that his family’s flight has a notice to see the counter. Getting there, Roman tells them of the flight number AX 1-12, and when another attendant hears the number, a look crosses over her face and tells Roman to follow her. She asks for his name and ID, and mentions his wife and daughter are arriving but their papers are all in order. As they turn the corner, Roman notices a few men, looking shell shocked. One man gives Roman a devastated look but Roman brushes it off as an oddity. Roman is placed in a room and told to wait.
Roman suddenly hears another man cry out about his family.
Another woman, Eve Sanders (Mariana Klaveno) enters the room Roman is in. She tells him to listen very carefully to what she says next. She tells Roman that the flight his wife and daughter were on has suffered an “unfortunate accident” and though there is no official confirmation yet, it is unlikely there will be any survivors found. Stunned, Roman stands up and stares out the glass, as he looks and realizes everyone around him is getting the same awful news. “She was pregnant,” Roman says, referring to his daughter, which makes Eve flinch. “Olena went to pick her up, to bring her back.” Roman suddenly hears another man wail out in horror in another room, his anguished cries, and his pounding on the wall. Roman blacks out, unable to take everything.
Roman is given medical attention. Eve asks if there is any other family that should be contacted and Roman tells her no; he is facing this alone. Roman is told by Eve about a support center that is being set up in a nearby hotel that will offer medical and psychological counseling to anyone who needs it, in addition to any updates. He can also be there alone if he wants to be. Eve strongly recommends that he go there and get help, also providing contact information for her personally, saying not to hesitate to call. Roman, realizing the woman is doing her best in an untenable situation tells he understands, and she leaves. Roman is left alone, loss in his grief.
We see Jacob “Jake” Bonanos (Scoot McNairy) having sex with his wife Christina (Maggie Grace). Afterwards they check on their young Samuel. Jacob relates a story about his teddy bear Ishmael and Christina and he crack jokes about it until Jacob notes he is going to be late for work.
Jacob heads to work. He is an air traffic controller. He is working with one other coworker who tells him there is currently nothing to land and heads off to get a snack. Jacob sees two men working on the terminals and learns of some tests that will put the terminals into security mode. He gets the call from AX 1-12 for permission to descend to 10000 feet. Jacob tells it to wait for confirmation. A supervisor comes in and tells him of an extra flight EF 135 that had to divert to them due to bad weather. He tells Jacob to call the Pittsburgh tower. Jacob takes off his headphones while making the call but cannot get through. He goes back and gives AX 1-12 permission to drop to 10000 feet. As he tries to make the call again, Jacob completely misses another plane that has popped up on the terminal screen; DH 616 that is slowly but surely crossing paths with AX 1-12…
Jacob calls EF 135 and tells them he can’t get through to the Pittsburgh Airport. Meanwhile, on his other channel DH 616, is telling him they are getting warnings to descend but they need to know, but Jacob does not see or hear the warning. Looking at the screen, Jacob gives the order for AX 1-12 to descend to 6000 feet, thus averting a collision. However, immediately after he takes off his headphones, DH 616, on not hearing a confirmation also begins to descend to 6000 feet…
Jacob gets a hold of Pittsburgh and gets the all clear about EHF 135. Going back to his terminal, he realizes AX 1-12 and DH 616 are in a collision course. He tries to call AX 1-12 to warn them, but gets no response. Suddenly, both planes disappear from the monitor. Jacob looks around in stunned horror. He knows what just happened.
Jake is ushered into a conference room. His boss, Robert (Martin Donovan) confirms his worst fear; two planes collided at high altitude, with little chance of any survivors. Jacob immediately breaks down sobbing. “How many dead? How many people were on those planes? Oh my god, how many people are dead?” Jacob cries out. Robert tells him that they don’t know why it happened, but he is, at this time, not being accused or blamed for what happened, and that they need him to keep it together, because they still need to do a full investigation.
Roman returns home, his house so much colder and lonely now his family will never set foot inside of it again.
The next day, Jacob is debriefed on the steps he took on that fateful night. Robert begins to list off what Jacob did, minute by minute, including the fact, that due to Jacob not having his headphones on at one moment, he did not hear DH 616 was planning to descend. Jacob is escorted to his car by his lawyer who tells him not to call anyone, speak to anyone, or even leave his house. The lawyer tells him he will call Jacob tomorrow and to be strong.
Jacob returns home, and sees his wife watching the news coverage about the crash. He goes inside and hugs his wife.
Roman watches the news coverage, with the total dead standing at 271. Eve Sanders calls him again, checking on his well being, and suggesting he come to the Family Center. Instead, Roman hangs up and drives to the crash site. Roman lies and says he is with another man (as they don’t want direct family members helping) and suits up to help go through the wreckage. He looks around, stunned by the carnage. He looks inside one intact piece of a plane and sees several dead bodies strapped in. Walking into a stretch of forest, he looks around until he finds a pearl necklace that belonged to his daughter, Nadiya. He calls out her name until he sees the unthinkable; a row of seats lodged in a tree. One of the bodies still strapped in is the body of his only child. Roman holds her in his arms, sobbing as other technicians surround him.
Roman is taken back to where the bodies being held, sitting in the middle between his wife and daughter, refusing to leave their side, completely heartbroken.
Christina comes home to see a news van parked out on her street. She sees her son Samuel playing outside and chides him for being outside without anyone. Samuel tells her he hasn’t seen his dad all day. Christina and Samuel go back into the house. “KILLER” and “MURDERER” have been spray painted on the walls. The news is out, and the public has their scapegoat.
Christina finds her husband in bed, catatonic.
Roman goes the grave of his family, laying flowers for his wife, daughter, and unborn grandchild. Hours later, a groundskeeper finds Roman passed out at the grave. The man reluctantly tells him to leave, saying every time he catches Roman there he gets in trouble. Roman apparently has been staying overnight in the cemetery, still enveloped deeply in grief.
Meanwhile, Jacob is becoming an insomniac, unable to sleep, and obsessively watching the news that debates his guilt. His son comes in and says he’s hungry, so Jacob begins to cook some eggs. Christina comes into the kitchen and tells him they had a deal of watching no news. Jacob pulls the eggs on his son’s plate, barely cooked. It is clear that he is losing it. Christina throws the eggs away, telling Jacob they are raw, while Jacob argues with her, causing them to smash a plate. Samuel, confused about what is happening, begins to whimper. Christina tries to comfort him, and then lays down the law with her husband.
“This stops now,” she says. “You can do this however you have to, but you don’t get to do it to him, okay?”
Jacob says they were making breakfast, but Christina ushers her son out of the room back to bed. Jacob tells her to get back in the kitchen but she ignores him.
Roman watches old home movies of his family, having nothing else.
Someone knocks at the door. It is Tessa Corbett (Hannah Ware), a journalist. She doesn’t want to bother him, but wants to show him a few articles she has written. She plans to write a book about the accident and would like to ask him a few questions later. She tells him she will check back later. Roman takes the articles and begins to read them. Later, his coworker Matt comes by to check in on him, trying to make sure he is okay. Matt makes semi awkward “are you okay” talk but Roman takes it in stride, knowing there is no easy way to talk about what happened. He notes that perhaps he needs to get organized and back to work, and spend less time at the cemetery. However, his family is there, they can never leave, and he has no other way to be close to them. He knows he has things to take care of right now, and tells Matt he needs to get going. Matt says he will leave him to it, and to take care of himself.
Christina talks to Jacob, telling him that Samuel and she will spend some time with her sister, so he will have some time to recover and find himself again. If they don’t do this, their relationship will continue to erode to the point it cannot be fixed. So they will do this for the sake of their son and their marriage. Jacob ultimately agrees for the sake of his son.
Roman stares at pictures of his family.
Jacob goes to a gun store and searches the aisles. After talking to a clerk, he buys a handgun, apparently in fear for his life. He watches cartoons in a haze. Returning to the airport, he besieged by reporters and barely gets inside. He is met by his lawyer and Robert. They tell him a trial is still not set but they will give him any legal representation he needs. Robert also once again recommends psychological counseling. They lay out two options; either he does administrative work, or he is given a severance package. If he picks the latter option, they strongly recommend he goes into hiding with a new name in new town. Jacob balks as his wife and family live in town and they cannot just quickly move. However, Robert and the lawyer ask him to think about what is truly best for his family.
Roman meets with lawyers James Gullick (Larry Sullivan) and John Gullick (Kevin Zeigers) who represent the airline. Despite Roman suing without a lawyer or signing into a class action lawsuit, the lawyers plan to offer him a settlement all the same. Roman tries to speak, but James continuously interrupts him, telling him that in exchange for Roman dropping his lawsuit, he will be paid $160,000 in compensation for the deaths of his family, along with other benefits. It is clear the airlines hope that the money will shut up the families, and leave them free not to take any public responsibility for what happened. Roman, finally getting to speak, tells the men that he wants someone to apologize for the accident and the death of his family. He tells them to look at a photo of his wife and daughter. The lawyers are unmoved, and the smug, condescending John Gullick tells Roman that if he does not sign, he will not get a penny, something Roman will need in his situation. Roman gets up from his seat, and orders John to look at the photo. “Look at this photo, because you didn’t before. LOOK AT IT!” Roman screams. John does so begrudgingly, and without emotion. Roman walks out.
Jacob is meeting with a shrink, who asks him to go over positive thoughts he has had in the past week. Jacob replies that he had hoped to get his prescription refilled. Jacob does not actually want to talk about what happened, hoping to stay in a chemically induced haze. The shrink pushes, so Jacob tells him he doesn’t feel good about anything. “So, just give me the fucking pills, please,” Jacob snaps. “Or I’ll go down the street and rob the goddamned pharmacy.”
Roman looks at his wall of photos, now also filled with newspaper clippings with debate on whether Jacob will be held accountable for the crash.
Jacob, in his apartment, stares at his bottle of pills, and begins to shove a handful into his mouth, sobbing. He grimaces in pain, and falls to the floor. He shoves a finger into his mouth, throwing up the pills.
Roman goes to buy some alcohol. He drives to his construction site and walks around. He goes to the roof, debating whether to jump or not. We see a short scene of one of the planes falling out of the sky, on fire.
ONE YEAR LATER
It is the one year anniversary of the accident. Roman is attending a memorial service at the crash site. Large steel balls have been placed in various distances around the crash site as metaphorical markers of those lost there. Standing by one, Roman is approached by Andrew Berg (Christopher Darga) the man he passed in the airport lobby the night of the crash, who had lost his wife and in-laws in the crash. It turns out the story about Nadiya’s necklace inspired the monument’s design. Andrew asks Roman what he should do to keep himself occupied, as all he can think about is his family, and every attempt to stay busy fails. Roman says it will take time, but he will find something “that will help him get out of bed.” Andrew asks if he has gotten through it. Roman stays silent.
We cut to a travel agency. Jacob, now under the name Pat Dealbert is working there planning a cruise for a couple. After work, he goes home to a lifeless apartment, alone and away from his family.
Roman is working on a man’s fence as a side job. The man offers him a beer, and Roman takes it. The man offers him his weekly pay, but Roman declines until he finishes the job. The man then says if he liked the fence his wife picked out he would be happy. The man winces and sighs, walking away, immediately realizing he said the wrong thing to Roman.
Roman waits outside a building for Tessa. He wants to ask her for a favor; to find Jacob. If the airline won’t give him apology, he wants one from Jacob.
Tessa leaves a message for Jacob, using his new name, asking to meet. In a bar, she tells him the book is basically ready, but she wants to give him a chance to add anything he would like to say. Jacob takes a moment and responds:
“You know, sometimes I, sometimes I put myself in their shoes. You know, the families? And then I think about my son and my wife, and it scares me to death, it’s terrifying. I mean, what can I say? You know, I, I just want this pain inside of me to go away. So, tell them…Look I’m not a bad person? Right?”
Tessa looks on stoically.
Jacob leaves work for the weekend and goes to buy groceries, heading home. Roman is at work, when he gets a call from Tessa, saying she found Jacob. Apparently feeling that Jacob’s response was not good enough, she has decided to let Roman know where he is.
Tessa meets with Roman at a coffee shop and tells him that Jacob sold his house, moved to another state, and works at a travel agency. Roman asks for his address, and Tessa pauses, rightfully afraid Roman is going to inflict harm against Jacob. Roman tries to assuage her fears; he just wants to look Jacob in the eye, show him a photo of his family, and have him apologize.
“No one has said they’re sorry,” Roman says. “No one.”
Tessa gives him the address and Jacob’s new name. Roman wants to give her something, but Tessa walks out, telling him goodbye. Roman begins to drive.
Jacob is at home, making dinner when the doorbell rings. He goes to the drawer, looking at his gun. He opens the door. It is his wife and son, staying for the weekend. Later that night, they discuss his new identity, and how Samuel understands it. Christina asks how he is feeling and Jacob says alone, and his days vary between great and awful. Jacob misses his family, and asks Christina to move Samuel and her to him to start over. Christina tells him they need to take it slow. Jacob reluctantly agrees. They sleep together on the same bed, so they can be together as a family.
The next morning, Christina wakes up and begins to clean herself up in the bathroom.
Roman arrives at the apartment. Finding his apartment, he rings the doorbell. Christina answers the doorbell, but finds no one there.
Roman sits in a hotel room, thinking of his family and finding them dead. He looks out the window. Jacob’s apartment is just across the street. He drives off.
Jacob is having game night with his family. As his wife is getting his son into pajamas, the doorbell rings, and he answers it. Roman is there, waiting for him. He shows Jacob the photo and asks him to apologize. Jacob pushes Roman away, saying he cannot be here, as his family is inside. He tells Roman it was an “accident” and he “Didn’t kill anybody” and that Roman has “lost his mind.” As Roman looks down on the photo Jacob threw to the floor by accident, he hears Jacob is about to call the police. During all this, Jacob still hasn’t the human decency to try and say that he is sorry, the ONLY thing Roman wanted. That, finally, pushes Roman over the edge.
In a rage, Roman runs into Jacob, stabbing him several times in the chest, and once in the neck. As Jacob begins to bleed out, he goes for his gun in the drawer, only for Roman to shut it. As Christina and Samuel see Jacob and recoil in horror, Roman calls them Olena and Nadiya, hallucinating they are his family. He sits down next to them as they sob uncontrollably, holding the picture of his family. We see a close up of Jacob, dead from the stab wounds.
We cut to a prison. Roman is in jail for Jacob’s murder, but he seems at peace despite his surroundings. Ten years pass, and Roman is met by his lawyer. His case has been appealed due to the extenuating circumstances of his case. He could be paroled in four months time. He would have to see a psychiatrist several times a week and have consistent positive reports, but he soon could be free.
We next see Roman leaving prison. He sits at a bus stop alone, no one to get him. He gets on a bus and heads to the cemetery to visit his family once more. A man walks behind him, wearing a black sweatshirt. Roman places his daughter’s necklace on the grave. The young man walks up to Roman, and asks for directions to the exit of the cemetery. Roman offers him directions out. As they walk together, Roman notes nothing has changed in the 11 years since he has been there. Roman asks the man if he has family in the cemetery. The man replies that “No, my father isn’t buried here.” Roman immediately stops, knowing who it is. It’s Jacob’s now adult son, Samuel.
Samuel pulls out a gun, intending to kill Roman. Roman tells him to go ahead. “Do what you have to do. I understand,” Roman says. However, Roman tells him that he is sorry for what he did (something Jacob was unable to do, the very act that could have prevented his death). Samuel, breaking down says he changed his mind, and that he is not going to kill Roman. “It’s not what I was taught,” he says. Samuel tells Roman to go, as he continues to sob. Roman leaves the cemetery alive, but now must spend the rest of his life dealing with the “aftermath” of *his* crime.