FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER dropped a financial and critical bomb in 1991, its payload of mossy clichés blasted by reviewers, the $30,000,000 price tag yelling “Mayday!” with an 81st place gross of just $14,588,000. Fans of director John Milius were sorely disappointed that this Vietnam War mission lacked the vigor of his previous action forays, and after the failure of his (better) WW2 epic Farewell To The King, the resultant flameout crashed his directorial career in feature films. *
1972. The Vietnam War from the perspective of US Navy pilots, flying their bombing & strafing runs off aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. The screenplay by Robert Dillon and David Shaber was adapted from former pilot Stephen Coonts bestselling novel. Full Navy co-operation was granted, so there’s plenty of hardware to either be impressed with, bored by or outraged over (or al little of each). The acting’s on the ripe side. The script, though saltier, is as lame as the one for Memphis Belle, which came out a few months earlier, similar in that the corniness level belongs to an earlier age. Apart from some okay special effects, the movie is inert. Even Basil Poledouris’ score is lacking; the least stirring of the five he did for Milius. Vietnam sequences were shot on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, and a good deal was filmed aboard the USS Independence.
With due respect for the truly gutsy guys delegated for the dangerous work of carrying out what politicians brew, the basic thrust of this kind of thing is more of the “if they’d just have let us” whining used to cover lies, failure, atrocity and ever-increasing the military budget for ever-more of the same. You don’t have to love Commies to reject this bullshit. Yeah, if only we’d killed everyone in SE Asia (the Middle East/next?) then we wouldn’t feel so cheated? The movie had an irony factor locked & loaded when it came out the same week as ‘Operation Desert Storm’, whose “resolve” brought peace, freedom and hamburgers to Iraq. Big parade after, and everything has been just swell since. Sell me another.
With Brad Johnson (likeable), Willem Dafoe, Danny Glover, Rosanna Arquette (terrible), Tom Sizemore, J. Kenneth Campbell, Dann Florek, Ving Rhames (playing a character named Frank McRae, one of director Milius’ favorite supporting actors), John Corbett, Fred Dalton Thompson, Reb Brown and David Schwimmer. 115 minutes.
* Six years later, Milius did direct the entertaining, big-scale, made-for-TV historical actioner Rough Riders, and kept his grizzly paws swiping at feature scripts with Geronimo: An American Legend and Clear And Present Danger.