Last week I watched the infamous and most lauded skydiving movie ever; Cutaway (2000).
That is to say: it is lauded by skydivers.
Wow. Did I say “most lauded”. As in, there was something to laud? Because holy crap people, this doesn’t speak well for the movie going sensibilities of skydivers!
Now I realize, that demographically speaking, most skydivers are young single men, who probably find Starship Troopers enjoyable. (I’m not even kidding. I’ve had this discussion. More than once. With actual men who claim to find Starship Troopers good! For reals!) And I know that the viewing pleasures of the Starship Trooper crowd is probably not well aligned for someone like me who does not have a penis and has the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice in her must watch list. BUT, in my defense, I also adore Tarantino films and Superbad and other reasonably modern and non-erudite cinematography, so I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say that I have a right to review this film, as a skydiver. Okay? Are we all in agreement here?
So, strictly speaking, the movie is TERRIBLE! As in poorly written, clunkily acted, and just egregiously inept in many, many ways. However, it does feature some spectacular skydiving sequences.
In order to discuss, we must break it down. The skydiving was filmed by famed cinematographer and photographer Norman Kent. The skydiving footage is more than well executed. It is beautiful and exciting and well worth the price of the movie rental. And there is a lot of it. Every time I was sorely tempted to just turn the whole thing off, there would be another gorgeous jump sequence. The plot is however…painful.
The set up is sad and obvious in a way that hurts your intelligence unless you are seven years old: a young rule-bending cop (played with painful sincerity by Stephen Baldwin), Cooper, goes undercover in a drop zone ruled by an aging and intense maverick skydiver, improbably named Red Line (Tom Berenger somehow thinks intense is best portrayed by squinting and rattling out his lines like machine gun fire) and his scary and secretive second in command, Turbo. (Dennis Rodman, which is almost good casting because he is terrifying because he is tall and cannot act).
Shockingly, Cooper falls in love with Star, his instructor (a beautiful and personable young thing who would NEVER, EVER go for a halfwit shmuck like Stephen Baldwin after you see the lack of charisma he un-shines around the DZ). Cooper ALSO is a NATURAL skydiver who is so talented and amazing that he quickly becomes a member of Red Line’s inner circle and competition big way team.
Oh, and also, someone at the DZ is running drugs and Cooper has to find out which of his new friends is in on the criminal aspects and who is just an eccentric skydiver type. The writers could have just skipped this part of the story line altogether (although it did provide reason for a few cool night jump scenes) especially since it has been done so often and better in other movies, like Point break. I would have enjoyed it more if they focused on the quest to built a champion eight way team for the nationals. Why not?
The usual skydiving tropes are present: the young kid jumper, the “old guy”, the scary guy, the young mountain dew type guys (improbably named “Rip” and “Cord”, how sad is that) with crazy hair and piercings, and of course, the hot blond.
The major theme is how sky diving takes over your life. As that is also a major theme of most of the contributor to this blog, it’s obvious that this has some veracity. However, like most things in this movie, this theme is taken to the extreme. Several characters literally renounce their old lives, successful careers and even their families in order to “cutaway” everything that is not skydiving. I’m not saying that never happens (we all know how our priorities shift in the face of a weekend filled with blue skies) but c’mon, must we quit our jobs? How would we even survive? There are no tandem customers seen after the first time Cooper goes to the drop zone. There is no business done other than drug running. I know we can all live (especially when sleeping in a tent on the DZ) for far less than a mainstream person, but somebody’s gotta pay for the rig, the booze, the condoms, the tunnel time. Right? I guess suspension of disbelief is needed early in order to enjoy this film.
There are of course a few technical issues and continuity errors. The drogue comes and goes from the tandem sequence. The drug runners jump in on a 9 cell and then 20 minutes later jump off a building using 7 cell (base rig?) canopies out of the same containers.
The supposed skydive training is hilarious. Cooper bribes another tandem student to switch places on the plane in order to jump with the hot female instructor, Star. While learning to skydive, Cooper is almost immediately flying head down, freeflying like a pro, doing crew work, base jumping and other insane things that are not just implausible, but crazy. I’m surprised they didn’t show him proximity flying in a squirrel suit. But I digress.
All in all, it is worth the watch. Maybe, if I had a few cocktails, and it was raining, I’d watch it again.
The ending alone is epic. It is so bad that it almost redeemed the film.
And also, we cannot review this film without considering this great quote by Red Line:
Everyone thinks that I love this life, that I chose THIS. Who would choose this? It’s a God damn curse! Infructus!
Have you seen it? What did you think? What should I watch next?