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Featured Blu-ray Review: Flight of the Intruder

April 4th, 2010

Flight of the Intruder - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Flight of the Intruder is the third film in Lionsgate's latest wave of Blu-ray releases. (The other two are Jade and The Relic.) The three films don't have a lot in common as far as plot or even genre go, but all three struggled with critics and moviegoers alike. Special circumstances almost guaranteed that Flight of the Intruder would not be a box office hit, but will it be more enjoyable now outside of the context of when it was released?

The film starts with Lt. Jake 'Cool Hand' Grafton and Morgan 'Morg' McPherson out in a bombing run in their A-6 over Vietnam. The strike goes about as poorly as possible. Not only does the target turn out to be just a figment of faulty intelligence, but on their way back a peasant with a rifle gets a lucky shot and McPherson is hit. He bleeds out before they can get back to their carrier. Grafton takes it hard, especially since he's become disillusioned with how the war is being run. When he gets a new co-pilot, Virgil 'Tiger' Cole, he comes up with a daring plan. The two of them will fly into restricted airspace and attack a SAM depot in Hanoi. At first, Cole rejects the idea as being too risky, but when they lose another pilot, Boxman, he changes his mind. But this mission will be tough. And even if they succeed, they will face the wrath of their commanding officer and a likely court martial.

Timing counts for a lot when it comes to the success or failure of a movie. For instance, this movie came out on January 18th, 1991... the day after the start of Operation Desert Storm. Given that timing, there was almost no chance this movie could have been a box office hit. On the other hand, given the film's by-the-numbers mentality, I don't think there was ever a real chance it would have been a box office smash. The film is loaded with clich├ęs, from the lead character's best friend/co-pilot getting killed to the hard ass commanding officer to the fight at the bar to the underdeveloped romance. Wow. I could have described Top Gun, which wasn't a good movie when it was released five years previously. This movie seems second rate in comparison. Part of this has to do with the era it depicts. For instance, a treetop bombing run might be incredibly dangerous, but it is not as cinematic as a dogfight between two jet fighters. But part of it has to do with the film itself. I mentioned underdeveloped romance, which was between Lt. Jake Grafton and a war widow, Callie. But almost every time the film tries to have emotional depth, it fails. For instance, in one scene we learn that Boxman is a dad (maybe), which is supposed to be sentimental and make him feel more human, where as previously he had just been shown as mostly bravado. However, instead of connecting with the character more, all I could think of was, "This guy's a goner." And I was right. It was just too obvious.

There are some parts of the movie that work, mostly the mission to bomb SAM City, but even then it takes more than an hour before we get to the scene and what follows (the court martial, the escalation in the war, their commanding officer getting shot down, etc.) all feel out of place. It would have been better if they would have spent more time developing the mission, making the actual mission more elaborate, and then ending the mission when they got back. Trying to have a climatic rescue end the movie doesn't work, as the bombing mission is more exciting.

There are no real extras on the Blu-ray, but you can set bookmarks. As for the film's technical presentation, it's mixed. There was a lot more grain than there should have been, even for a film that's nearly 20 years old. The sound was significantly better, although still dated and weak by today's standards.

The Verdict

Flight of the Intruder doesn't bring anything new to the genre and what it does bring is only second rate. Add in a Blu-ray that is devoid of extras and is only adequate in terms of video and audio and there's nothing here that lifts it to the purchase level. Even calling it a rental is being generous, as there are too many other films that tackle the same or similar material.

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