You may or may not like these films, but in an era of plague and no new movies, they may have to do:

Flight of the Intruder

The Film: Flight of the Intruder is a 1991 war film directed by John Milius, and as of 2020 is Milius’ final theatrical release as a director. The critics hated the movie and I think that the movie was well done, so make of that what you will.

I like the A-6 Intruder, and you can also make of that what you will. It was the US Navy’s last bomber aircraft (the A-12 project was scrapped because of cost over-runs). The FA-18 can drop bombs but it has shorter legs and it’s really not a “bomber”.

As I sit here in front of the computer and look left, there’s a copy of the novel upon which the film was based.

The US Naval Institute, which publishes Proceedings, the professional journal of the US Navy, had a success publishing the first original novel in its 112-year history with The Hunt for Red October. They were flooded with manuscripts and decided to publish as a follow up Flight of the Intruder by Stephen Coonts.

Coonts was a Denver lawyer who had flown during the Vietnam War; he was discharged in 1977 after nine years of active duty, including two combat cruises aboard the Enterprise, 1600 hours in Intruders and 305 carrier landings, 100 of them at night. He had sent the book to 36 publishers, 30 of whom refused to look at it, four who rejected it and two that he was waiting to hear back from. Coonts says he made up the central thrust of the film. “There was no secret bombing. It comes out of the character’s deep-seated sense of frustration with the course of the war.”

Sicario (and Sicario 2 – Days of the Soldato)

Sicario’ features Emilie Blunt as Kate Macer, the morally upright young FBI agent, Josh Brolin as CIA Case Officer/Special Activities Division, Matt Graver and Benicio del Toro as the sicario, Alejandro. The story follows the US war on drugs in Mexican border as Kate’s idealistic beliefs are torn apart by the bloody horror of reality. In the lawless land she tries to follow guidelines without realizing that in the wild, survival and revenge have no place for morality. The CIA attempts to disrupt the drug trade of Manuel Diaz and eliminate his boss Alarcón’s drug empire.

Matt educates Kate about the ways of larger political and personal battles. Alejandro has personal scores to settle with Alarcón. His personal vendetta sees him killing, kidnapping and torturing people to gain his way to Alarcón. Macer’s moral compass is shattered as she realizes her smallness in the greater political crisis. The movie has a watertight plot, a lean and mean narrative and a splendid background score.

‘Sicario: Days of the Soldado’ takes place in the same universe but doesn’t follow the events of the previous film chronologically. It does feature CIA Case Officer Matt Graver and Alejandro. It starts with a suicide bombing in Kansas where innocent civilians die. Finding that the terrorists are being trafficked to Mexico, the US government attempts to destroy the cartels by fueling a gang war between them. Matt, Alejandro, and team are tasked with carrying the mission. Alejandro kills one gang’s lawyer and kidnaps the daughter of the other gang’s owner. They plan to leave her at the rival gang’s territory but betrayals follow as things escalate.

Alejandro bonds with the girl and goes against the orders of his agency to protect her. On his way to do so he piles up body counts. At a certain turn of events, Alejandro and the girl are recognized and he is shot. Graver finds her and with a sudden change of heart decides to put her in a witness protection program. Alejandro somehow manages to save himself, kills a few more and traces Miguel a year later. ‘Soldado’ is more violent and grimmer than the first one.

There is talk of a third Sicario film that will include Emilie Blunt in the cast.

Hell or High Water

In West Texas West Texas, divorced father Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) carry out early morning robberies of two branches of the Texas Midlands Bank. Though the robberies are well-planned, Tanner’s wild nature leads him to take unnecessary risks, frustrating Toby. Back on the family ranch, they bury their getaway car in a pit with an excavator. The brothers’ mother has died after a long illness, leaving their ranch in debt because of a reverse mortgage provided by the Texas Midlands Bank. If the debt is not paid off in a few days, the ranch will be foreclosed. Oil has been discovered on their land, and Toby is determined to ensure a comfortable life for his estranged sons. They rob Texas Midlands as a form of frontier justice.

Two Texas Rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), are on the case. Hamilton, who is close to retirement, investigates the robberies and quickly determines the brothers’ methods and personalities. Meanwhile, Tanner robs another bank while Toby unknowingly waits at a nearby diner, conversing with a waitress. They take the stolen money to an Indian casino in Oklahoma to be laundered. Toby has the casino convert their gambling winnings into a check made out to the Texas Midlands Bank. With untraceable funds and gambling as a cover for how they were acquired, the brothers head back to Texas.

Hamilton stakes out another branch of the Texas Midlands Bank, to no avail. During that time, Hamilton playfully makes fun of his partner’s half-Mexican and half-Indian heritage. Alberto responds with jokes about Hamilton’s old age. Hamilton figures a pattern to the bank robberies and determines the next target. Hamilton and Parker are en route to the bank when the final robbery occurs. Pressed for time, the brothers proceed with the heist though the bank is crowded. A shoot-out ensues when a security guard and an armed civilian fire at the brothers and Tanner kills both. Toby is shot in the abdomen as they are ambushed by a waiting posse of armed townspeople outside the bank.

The brothers race out of town with the local posse in pursuit. After gaining some distance, Tanner stops and fires an automatic rifle, forcing the posse to retreat. The brothers split; Toby takes the money using another vehicle, while Tanner creates a diversion. He draws the lawmen off the trail to a desert mountain ridge where he takes potshots at the police with a hunting rifle, killing Parker. Hamilton uses a local resident and posse member’s knowledge of the area to circle behind Tanner. He gets into a shooting position behind Tanner, and kills him.

During the standoff, Toby conceals his wound, passes through a police checkpoint without incident, and launders the stolen cash at the casino, where he sees the news report of his brother’s death. He takes the casino’s check to the bank just in time to avoid the ranch’s foreclosure and deeds the ranch into a family trust.

After retirement, Hamilton visits his former office to learn that the Rangers have cleared Toby as a suspect, as his record is clean and he has no motive to steal since the new oil wells earn more in a month than the total stolen in all of the robberies together. The money from the ranch’s oil wells is deposited at the Texas Midlands Bank, which refuses to co-operate with the investigation for fear of losing management of the family’s trust fund.

Hamilton visits Toby’s ranch. Although they stay civil, Hamilton states that he knows Toby masterminded and took part in the robberies, but wishes to know the reason. Toby says he has resolved not to let poverty affect his sons like it affected him and Tanner. Hamilton tells Toby he holds him responsible for the death of his partner, and just as a Mexican standoff starts to occur, they are interrupted when Toby’s ex-wife and children arrive. The ranch belongs to the trust and thus to them; Toby is only there to visit and fix up the house. As Hamilton departs, Toby suggests they meet again soon to “finish the conversation” and “bring you some peace”. Hamilton says he would like to meet again and maybe he will “bring some peace” to Toby.

19 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve seen three of the films, missing only Sicario 2. I liked Intruder and have read the book as well. Perhaps the panning by the critics was due to Milius’ involvement. He’s not the most PC guy out there.
    I watched Sicario on your recommendation. Good gritty film. I’ll have to seek out #2.
    I really liked Hell or High Water. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, though I don’t think it won any. Bridges character was based on famed Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson and I understand Jackson was involved with the film. Buck Taylor of Gunsmoke fame has a small role as a feisty old man in a robbery scene early in the film. I met Taylor a few years ago and found him to be a very nice guy.

  2. Sicario plot summary: Thanos (various Marvel movies 2014-2019) and Che Guevara (Che 2008) team up to fight narcos. Che beats up The Punisher (2015-2019) to save Sergeant Rita Vrataski, “The Full Metal Bitch” (Edge of Tomorrow 2014).

    My friend James points out that Sicario begins with current Hollywood tropes, wherein a 115-lb girl just happens to be an ass-kicking dynamic entry specialist, aided by her faithful subordinate, who is a dark-skinned Black man. You go, girl! His theory is that the opening scene was needed to get the movie green-lit and funded. But, after that it’s all downhill for Emily Blunt’s character, who gets manhandled by Jon Bernthal’s character, needing to be saved by del Toro’s Alejandro, and ends the movie psychologically broken.

    • Mike C, I’m currently in negotiations to sell the film rights to the book, “White Powder”. If it all happens, it will come out as a Netflix series, working title is “Mekong”. (or “YouKong” – I have no idea what Hollywood will do to it). I sold two scripts previously, “Whisper to Me”, to Maverick Films (Madonna) and “Ghost Soldiers”, to a David White and Brad Heller – who are known to make Christian films. “Ghost Soldiers” was re-named and infused with Christian lore – my film wasn’t. “Whisper to Me” was never made. That was a long time ago. The White Powder offer was made this week while I’ve been out of town.

      • As you say, it will be interesting to see what Hollyweird does to it. Had any of the current crop of politically correct “entertainers” inhabiting Hollyweird actually gone to Vientiane, let alone the other parts of Laos, they would have had their trigger warnings activated and run screaming for their safe spaces. Imagine what would have happened had they dared set foot in the White Rose, The Green Latrine or, heaven forbid, Madame Lulu’s (sorry I cannot remember the French name for this establishment). Still, as you say, we shall see.

      • Excellent. Here’s to successful negotiations!
        I’ve read your Cartel Wars books, but not got around to White Powder yet.

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