My Review: "Flight of the Intruder" (Highly Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jonny P, Jan 19, 2004.

  1. Jonny P

    Jonny P Supporting Actor

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    "Flight of the Intruder" (Paramount, 1991) is a corny and a rah-rah example of an old-fashioned war movie. It feels like one of those old John Wayne propaganda films. In some respects, it felt out of place for the 90s -- a time when Hollywood war movies about Vietnam tended to paint the United States military in a far more cynical light.

    Regardless of the cheesiness, this remains one of my favorite war films. I can't put my finger on it, but there is something about the film that I thoroughly enjoy.

    Oddly, this was a "low-profile" release of a catalog title that I didn't notice last July. I had been waiting for this film for years, and was surprised when I stumbled upon it for $7.88 at my local retailer a week or so ago.

    The story focuses around jet-jock Jake Grafton (Brad Davis) who flies A-6 Intruder bombers during the Vietnam War. After his navigator/bomber Morg is killed during a routine bombing raid by a peasant with a rifle, Jake seems bent on getting some payback and making a difference. His new navigator/bomber Virgil "Tiger" Cole (Willem Dafoe) is considered an off-kilter aviator who has served three tours in Vietnam. He shares Grafton's views, and both plot an unauthorized bombing raid on SAM City in North Vietnam.

    Danny Glover does a terrific job as Commander Frank Camperelli. Watching this performance makes me wonder why we don't see him much in films anymore. He is African-American, but has some Italian in his blood and tells one of the new pilots that he is "third-generation Mafia." Camperelli is at odd with Grafton throughout the film and questions his motivations, but in the end, we know that he has similar attitudes inside...as do most of the military men in this movie.

    I could go into a long plot synopsis, but like many of you, I tend to skip ahead to the audio/video/extra categories in most reviews. I will simply add that Ving Rhames, Rosanna Arquette, Tom Sizemore and even David Schwimmer make appearances in the film. It is based on the book by the very talented techno-thriller author Dean Koontz...Grafton is a fixture in his later fiction much the way that Jack Ryan is in Tom Clancy's novels.

    The movie is directed by John Milius who is best-known for penning "Apocalypse, Now" and directing "Red Dawn."

    As is the case with bare bones releases of older titles, I had my reservations about how it would look. I worried that it would look similar to the original release of "The Hunt for Red October" since both films were released within a year of each other.

    Both are from the same productin team and both are based on successful fiction books published by the Naval Institute Press in the mid-80s.

    The 2.35 to 1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is decent...not great by today's standards...but better than I expected. For the most part, colors appear to be natural and the transfer is relatively free if dust and I didn't see any scratches. There is grain present at times -- especially in some of the night combat scenes -- but overall it looks pretty decent. It was cleaner and sharper than I expected.

    The sound is pleasant with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but not terribly impressive. The loud/booming jet noises are interesting, but compared with most of the newer action movie soundtracks, it won't impress most DVD afficianados. It won't have the directionals that people are used to with a newer war film like say "Black Hawk Down." There is also a 2.0 English track on the disc as well as French track.

    There are no extras on the disc. I remember enjoying the trailer for this movie and would love to have seen it included.

    If you like war movies where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, you will enjoy "Flight of the Intruder." It is corny at times, but has a quality that I find to be somewhat nostalgic in this day and age when we have to villify both sides in war movies. Milius brings his patented-style of machismo to the film much in the same way he did with "Red Dawn." I found the effect to be a decent war movie with plenty to cheer about.

    Well worth the $8 I spent on it.
     
  2. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Just out of curiosity, what is "the early 90s crowd"?

    M.
     
  3. Jonny P

    Jonny P Supporting Actor

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    Came out wrong Reuben...my apologies.
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. I was just curious about what it meant.

    I remember the film dimly, haven't seen it for years.

    M.
     
  5. CaptDS9E

    CaptDS9E Cinematographer

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    This is one of my fav movies also that not too many people know about.

    capt
     
  6. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    My theatrical memories of this turned out to be rosier than I thought after I picked up the DVD.

    The right-wing rah-rah spirit grated on me then, but I forgave it in light of what I thought were decent action scenes and the verisimilitude afforded by the cooperation of the U.S. Navy. Now it just grates on me, period, since the participation of the Navy is probably what robbed the movie of it's balls. "Don't you make us look bad!" they probably warned, "or we'll take our toys away from you." It's really just a recruitment ad for a service that desperately hoped to lure in new meat in light of so many movies from the era painting a grimly realistic viewpoint of war.

    Having watched the film just over a week ago, I was amazed how my opinions had changed since 1991, when I gave the film a favourable rating in my newspaper column. I can now safely say that, with the benefit of years, I see the point of so many critics back then.

    I was never particularly enthralled with the performances, but having seen so many performances by Danny Glover and Willem Dafoe since then, I'm comfortable saying they've done far better work than they do here. They're clearly out of their element. It almost seems like they're improvising many of their lines. Speaking of improv, check out that under-the-flight-deck chat between Brad Johnson and Tom Sizemore who, in light of his subsequent real-life substance problems, seems almost certainly to be in an altered state. I can picture "man's man" Milius letting these two riff to show how closely actors bond on his sets, but MAN, is this scene painful to watch, as are many of the scenes involving Glover, who just doesn't have a powerful enough presence or powerful enough voice to suggest someone whom these men would fear. And Dafoe speaking bomber-techno-jargon during the flight sequences just never rings true for me, especially in the deadpan monotone in which he delivers.

    Ironically, you couldn't ask for a more sincere meathead for the part of Jake Grafton than Brad Johnson, who basically reheats his schtick from Always here, a one-note patriot who's gonna win one for the good guys (or in the case of Always, the dead guy). No surprise that he's been absent from theatre screens ever since. The development of the romance between his character and the wife of his dead buddy (whoa, just thought of that similarity after all these years) is drawn in the most perfunctory manner, in keeping with the Milius ouevre, with Rosanna Arquette taking to her new grief counsellor/bed-tester far too fast.

    I, too, remember being intrigued by the trailer and it's action scenes, but I distinctly remember feeling underwhelmed by the films visual effects during the bombing runs, which were quite weak compared to what other filmmakers were doing in silmilar films at that time. The model work is barely convincing, although the explosions do look good.

    Time has not been kind to this film. Then again, time had already made this sort of thinking look naive when the film was first released, which may account for its dismal performance at the box-office.
     

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