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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 04.29.08] movie review drama

Year: 2008
Director: Jeff Pickett
Writer: Eric Jensch & Jeff Pickett
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 5 out of 10

On November 24 1971, a man going under the name D.B. Cooper hijacked a Boeing 747 as it flew from Portland to Seattle. He demanded $200, 000 and four parachutes, all of which he received. After that, he ordered the pilot to head towards Mexico City, but while still over the Pacific Northwest, he jumped out of the airplane’s back door and was never heard from again. This true and very cool story is the inspiration for Jeff Pickett's first directed feature, The Skyjacker, which premiered at the International Film Festival at Rotterdam in February this year.

First, I have to say how disappointed I was with this film. It's such a great real life story that I really expected more. Almost the entire film is a record of Cooper sitting in a chair as an air stewardess feeds him bourbon and cigarettes… again and again. He doesn't do anything interesting like get drunk. They kind of flirt, but the dynamic between them never really gets off the ground (sorry). Then, he jumps out of the plane. No backstory, nothing with the other passengers, not much with the stewardess either. About forty minutes in I considered nailing my foot to the floor to stay awake.

To be fair to Jeff though I have to say that, for the budget he had ($20,000 dollars) he did a fantastic job. The movie is shot almost totally on a single location, a real 747, which gives the setting a "real" feeling. The (digital) camera work is decent with some beautiful establishing shots of a bleak Northwest, with its wintry forests and rivers. The rest of the movie takes place on the airplane, realistic monotone colors, with various tight steady shots of the Skyjacker and the crew.

Performance wise, Joan Alperin as the stewardess Janet did a pretty good job. I liked the way the "good girl" seemed fascinated by this "bad man." But I found Jeff Picket's performance as the Skyjacker to be pretty clunky. He wasn't very sympathetic but he wasn't someone to hate either. He was sort of sulky and frowny. Maybe that's a realistic portrayal of a hijacker, I don't know, but it's not a very dramatic one.

The thing that annoyed me the most about this movie was the soundtrack. Lots of single electronic note type things that made me think I had a faulty audio connection. Overall, I think The Skyjacker suffers because the filmmakers tried to be too literal. The movie might be a faithful record of exactly what happened, but a movie is also about story, conflict and drama. You can use explosions, drama, or dialogue, but you've got to at least use something.

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