A forgotten adventure / romance / drama film with skilled photography in the aviation sequences, and a touching performance from the eternal & beloved Superman...
Period piece drama based on the 1981 novel by Ernest K. Gann and directed by George T. Miller (not to be confused with the australian George Miller from "Mad Max" fame), "The Aviator" is a nicely shot film about aviation and its daring pilots delivering the air mail in the 1920's between the mountains of Elko, Nevada and Pasco, Washington.
Edgar Anscombe (Reeve, very good) is a Contract Air Mail aviator with a troubled past working for a War vet, Moravia (Jack Warden, strong support).
Tillie Hansen (Rosanna Arquette, not so good, a bit hammy and almost irritating in some scenes), a rebellious and spoiled teenager, daughter of the owner of the aviation company, Bruno Hansen (Sam Wanamaker), was the last person that taciturn Edgar wanted as passenger in his airplane.
They can't stand each other, but when the plane crash on a remote ridge, they must unite forces to survive the wilderness and its natural predators, a Wolf Pack thirsty for fresh meat...
Co-starred by Scott Wilson ("In Cold Blood") and Tyne Daly ("The Enforcer"), directed with heart, even if too schmaltz sometimes, almost entering into the realms of the TV movie melodrama, it's professionally photographed, especially the air sequences showing Reeve taking off and piloting the plane himself (the actor was a skilled pilot, thus contributing to the realism of his role here), it feels like a cross between the time period of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" ('81) with the charm and wittiness of "Romancing the Stone" ('84) and especially, "High Road to China" ('83), the aviation / adventure film starring Tom Selleck and Bess Armstrong, which "The Aviator" is quite often confused.
However, it differs in the sense that it is much more drama / romance oriented than the typical action / adventure film, a genre resurrected 4 years before due to the huge critical and B.O. success of the aforementioned "Raiders...".
It also reminds a lot of "Hanover Street" ('79) starring Harrison Ford, Lesley-Ann Down & Christopher Plummer and Reeve's earlier success, the cult favorite time-travel mystery / romance / fantasy, "Somewhere in Time" ('80) sharing the screen with the beautiful Jane Seymour.
The screenplay is quite simple and straightforward and lacked some of the thrills that audiences were expecting from a new "Raiders..." spin-off, hence the critical and B.O. failure.
In short, "The Aviator" is a feel good and harmless little film, that deserved much better fate, it quickly disappeared from theaters, stalled Christopher Reeve's career as a leading man and became one of the forgotten gems from the 80's Era. Rewatching this makes me feel like a little kid again...
I give it a 7.5 !!
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