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  Slipstream A Bad Case Of Wind
Year: 1989
Director: Steven Lisberger
Stars: Mark Hamill, Bob Peck, Bill Paxton, Kitty Aldridge, Eleanor David, Ben Kingsley, F. Murray Abraham, Robbie Coltrane, Rita Wolf, Roshan Seth, Deborah Leng, Bruce Boa, Jennifer Hilary, Murray Melvin, Heathcoate Williams, Paul Reynolds, Ricco Ross
Genre: Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A lone figure (Bob Peck) races across the chilly countryside terrain, pursued by an aircraft flown by a lawman, Tasker (Mark Hamill), with his second in command Belitski (Kitty Aldridge) at his side in the cockpit. The figure stops, taking in the landscape and the fresh wind that whistles through the cliffs and over the plains, for this is the future and these weather conditions, coupled with tumultuous earthquakes and continental shifts, have forged a new world where mankind is collected in various tribes. But this does not mean there is no law, and Tasker is determined to bring in his quarry, as after all, there is a reward at stake...

Here's a thing, a sci-fi blockbuster that wasn't. It was the pet project of Gary Kurtz, the producer who had helped to bring the visions of George Lucas to the screen but had walked away from Return of the Jedi after creative differences and hoped to attain a sizeable hit with another science fiction epic. Slipstream was that film, but it was not the success that Kurtz wanted, thanks to a budget that didn't do the script justice, and a script that didn't do its own ideas justice for that matter; not only that but the film received limited distribution, and not in the major market of the United States. Basically, nobody really wanted to see it and it is now in the public domain.

This is a shame, because every so often you can see what they were aiming for, yet you can also see how far wide of the mark they were in their lofty ambitions. It's pretty much a chase movie, with Peck's mystery man coveted by both Tasker and a passing stranger, Owens (Bill Paxton, giving broad performances a bad name). It is Owens who eventually claims the fugitive and spirits him away after a face off with Tasker, and as both good guy and bad guy have planes it's an excuse for yet more flying sequences, which admittedly are very pretty as the locations are well chosen (a mixture of Turkish and British Isles countryside), but not helped by special effects shots sticking out like sore thumbs.

So the film does if nothing else have a decent look to it, and Peck puts in a nice showing as the man who turns out to no one's surprise to be an android, complete with healing powers to offer him that messianic quality for added pretension. Owens calls him Byron after a poetry-quoting misunderstanding, and what do you know, the two get past the pilot's avarice and strike up a very close friendship which has Tasker's pursuit of them look downright mean. This was Hamill's comeback to the big screen after his last Star Wars outing, and didn't do much to stop him being typecast even if he was essaying the villain role, but then as hardly anyone saw this maybe that fact didn't trouble him too much.

The narrative settles down into a series of encounters between Owens and Byron and the various tribes they meet along the way to, er, wherever it was they were supposed to be going (clarity is not the strong point here), and it seems with almost every group they meet there's a guest star involved. Therefore they bump into Robbie Coltrane as a sort of Robin Hood stand-in, Sir Ben Kingsley as a guru who gets barely a minute of screen time before expiring, and F. Murray Abraham as the leader of a posh cult based in a crumbling museum where Owens gets the idea of what he wants to do with his life: ballooning. In that wind?! Half the scenes of Slipstream feature the cast yelling into a force 9 gale, which makes it a miracle that most of their dialogue doesn't consist of "What?! Speak up!", but sums up the eccentricity of the enterprise that some have responded to - its heart was in the right place, even if its head wasn't. Music by Elmer Bernstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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