Director Tony Scott demonstrates the difference between telling a story and selling a story in this 1986 feature-length commercial for the navy’s fighter pilots school: every moment is hyped for maximum visual and visceral impact, but Scott doesn’t display the slightest bit of interest (or belief) in the actual characters and situations. It’s even impossible to determine the lead characters’ ages: hotshot flyboy Tom Cruise could be anywhere from 18 to 35; his “love interest” (though that role is more convincingly taken by his plane and his copilot), civilian instructor Kelly McGillis, is either a starry-eyed teenager or a forbidding older woman, depending on the needs of each individual scene. There are so many precedents for this kind of aviation melodrama in the American cinema, ranging from Wellman’s homoerotic sentimentality (Wings) to Hawks’s tragic stoicism (The Dawn Patrol) and Sternberg’s Freudian satire (Jet Pilot), that it must have taken some real work for producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to come up with the dullest model of them all: Fox’s Tyrone Power vehicles of the 40s (A Yank in the RAF), in which the brash young recruit learns to suppress his individuality and become a team player. But isn’t that what 90 percent of Reagan-era movies were about? With Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt, and Anthony Edwards.
PG • 1 hour 49 min • 1986