Top critical review
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on 30 November 2007
John Milius with an aircraft carrier to play with - he must have thought he'd died and gone to Valhalla, or at least until Flight of the Intruder got trapped in release date hell and proved his last theatrical release to date. Originally scheduled for Summer 1990, but put back to avoid a clash with Air America, its Autumn release was then postponed so that Paramount could use it as a standby for the cinemas that had booked Godfather III just in case Coppola didn't finish editing in time. He did. Then, to cap it all, three days after finally opening in the States in a re-edited version, the first Gulf War started, rendering it almost unpromotable because of his gung ho reputation.
Yet in actuality, hawkish sentiments confined to a great one-line riposte to Jane Fonda's Sixties politicking, Intruder continued the mellowing of Milius and is rather more aware than Top Gun of the moral implications and complications of its tale of Navy pilots during the Vietnam war. It's not without its problems: Willem Dafoe gives an uneasy performance and is prone to a VERY odd giggle even by his standards while Danny Glover doesn't actually appear to have anything to do until the last reel (Rosanna Arquette has even less reason to be there), with Basil Poledouris' score far from the standards of his previous collaborations with the director (the composer shared in the bad luck, dropping out of Dances With Wolves to score his friend's film, with disastrous consequences for his career at the time) - but it was none the less a qualified return to form for the director.
It also shows how his strengths and weaknesses had become reversed, his interest in quieter moments now taking precedence over the pyrotechnics and plotting. Extremely well filmed but with a go-nowhere narrative and the kind of curiously passionless action scenes that marred the thematically more interesting Farewell to the King, his heart just doesn't seem to be in them anymore. The finale, which owes more than a little to The Bridges at Toko-Ri, is distinctly underwhelming, and the aerial scenes are particularly disappointing, with the pivotal raid on 'Sam City' coming over more as a video game than cinema (ironically, the video game had better graphics despite coming out before the film). However, there are still a few stunning shots, including an amazing slow motion shot of rescue planes passing a downed jet, and Milius is fully at home with the Scope screen.