Most helpful positive review
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A good movie about bombers which bombed at the box office - very undeservedly
on 17 October 2011
I confess that I have a weakness for John Millius movies, as he made some very good ones - "Dillinger", "Conan the Barbarian", "Farewell to the King" - and some very special ones, like "Red Dawn" and precisely "The flight of Intruder". I also have a special sympathy for him, because he is a very persistant and courageous member of one of the least protected minorities in the world - an unrepentant right-wing film-maker in Hollywood! This is maybe the reason why I liked "The flight of the Intruder" a little bit more than it deserves - but ultimately I think that four stars are rather a fair rating. And here are the reasons why:
1. The story. This tale of a mini-rebellion amongst American pilots flying routinely dangerous and useless bombing missions over North Vietnam in 1972, during which they can not, for political reasons, attack any military relevant targets, is very appealing. From the beginning I rooted for both heroes - Jake "Cool Hand" Grafton and Virgil Cole - and I was really worried about what will become of them. Also, the great finale of the movie reminded me of one of my favourite war films, "The bridges at Toko Ri".
2. The cast. It is very impressive, even if Brad Johnson who plays the main character (Jake Grafton) is not a major star (and his character is not particularly flamboyant) - but Willem Dafoe (Virgil Cole) and especially Danny Glover (Squadron Commander Frank Camparelli) were given here an opportunity to display all their talent and they give an incredible show! Also, amongst the secondary roles, you will find a great number of actors who were promised to celebrity: Tom Sizemore ("Black Hawk Down"), Ving Rhames ("Pulp Fiction"), Dann Florek ("Law and Order SVU"), John Corbett ("Northern Exposure"), Fred Dalton Thompson ("Law and Order"), who was going three years later to become an US senator when still continuing his acting career, and finally David Schwimmer ("Friends", "Band of brothers"), in his very first role. Rosanna Arquette plays the only female character in this otherwise very masculine movie.
3. The planes and air fights. The movie sticks very carefully to the realities of the air-warfare over North Vietnam in 1972 and this is its great quality. Original Grumman A-6 "Intruder" bombers and Douglas A-1 "Skyraider" attack planes were used in this film together with a Vietnam war era HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giant" huge helicopter. Anti-aircraft weapons (SAMs and guns) used by the North Vietnamese soldiers were also reconstructed with precision, although here one thing was changed, to make the movie more spectacular: the communist forces are seen using ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" self-propelled armored anti-aircraft vehicles, when in fact North Vietnamese forces started to use them only in 1975, during their last offensive against Saigon, when American soldiers were already long gone from Vietnam...
4. The general atmosphere of the movie - this is one of the few relatively recent war films which are completely devoided of political correctness and left-winged politics and this is a welcome change. The very masculine society living on an aircraft carrier in time of war in the 70s, toughened even more by the always present shadow of death, is portrayed with realism but also with a sympathy and an understanding and in the same time without any kind of drama - something that we do not see so much any more. And this is a precious thing.
All in all, although I believe this film could have been better, I am glad that I finally watched it and I will keep this DVD in my collection, next to "Bridges at Toko Ri" and "Hamburger Hill".