Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag

At its best, Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag uses the behemoth IMAX camera to capture visceral mock-dogfight over the Nevada desert. At its worst, it feels like an extended commercial for Boeing and the Air Force. Operation Red Flag is a huge multination simulation carried out to improve the survival chances of pilots. According to the film, if a pilot survives ten missions, his/her chances of not dying in the future increase greatly. Now, if this sounds like something that appeals only to fans of the military, you're right. That's why director Stephen Low (Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, Mark Twain's America in 3D) tried to put a human face to it by introducing Captain John Stratton, who flies an F-16.

This Red Flag is Stratton's first. He became a pilot after hearing stories of his grandfather, who was a fighter pilot in World War II. It's a cute story, but Stratton doesn't have much of a personality. Worse, Low, who co-wrote the screenplay with Denny Kuhr and Joe Stanley introduce him, then, aside from having him on camera, basically ignore him until the end. They add a human face to the movie, but no real human emotion. It also makes you wonder how much is real, and how much is staged. There is a great shot with all of the participating soldiers standing at attention, while the camera slowly pans across the room. Was this real, or did Low have them set the shot up?

The real fun begins, only to stop quickly. It always is cool watching dozens of planes fly at each other. The IMAX screen makes everything look and sound bigger, but was it really necessary? Probably not. In fact, the screen size is probably the only thing that Operation Red Flag has going for it. This is a training exercise, so you assume that there is some objective, along with lots of tactical and strategic decisions. The voiceover reveals what the objective is, but reveals little about how the pilots and commanders think during the exercise. The result is scary - a boring IMAX film.

Gerf Rates It: Pretty Bad.
48 minutes, Not Rated but contains simulated war violence, probably a PG-13, maybe a PG.

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