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MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Flyers' Soars on Images Despite Familiar Plot

November 19, 1988|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

In "Flyers" (Mitsubishi IMAX Theater in Exposition Park), the latest of the IMAX huge-screen spectaculars, the medium is the message. The story is a chain of cliches, an obvious string on which to hang its raison d'etre : long, breathlessly spectacular aerial scenes and stunt flying sequences, in which the astonishing depth, breadth and clarity of the IMAX process are showcased.

These sequences aside, it's difficult to take the plot seriously, amiable though the actors and writer-director Dennis Earl Moore try to make it. Once again, youth battles experience. An old stunt flyer idolized by the son of his oldest buddy-pilot friend, takes the boy under his wing, tries to show him the airy tricks of the trade. Once again, the boy proves impatient, reckless, eager for his place in the clouds and sun. He's the same glory-hungry young son-of-a-gun the movies have been giving us for 75 years or so.

Yet Timothy C. Housel's cinematography is exhilarating. One sails through the cumulus, spins down in free fall, clutches desperately at a racing wing with spine-tingling, giddy assurance. Masses of clouds banked like sunny snowdrifts split apart to reveal breathtaking bird-eye views of the vast, distant Earth. The plot of "Flyers" (Times rated: Family) may not remind you of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's poetry of flight in books like "Night Flight" and "Wind, Sand and Stars," but the IMAX photography gets a whiff of it.

If the 1985 "Top Gun" (done without models) and the 1984 "The Right Stuff" had been shot with these cameras, they'd probably still be in their first run. In fact, so might the 1939 "Only Angels Have Wings."

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