The story of 1971 skyjacker D.B. Cooper is the stuff legend is made of. An everyday guy in need of some cash high-jacks a plane that’s traveling from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. Since this was all pre-9/11, smuggling a phony bomb on-board a plane and taking over was much simpler and once the flight took off, Cooper laid down his demands. He wanted a big sack of money and 3 parachutes. Once the plane landed in Seattle, his demands were met and he had the pilots set a course for Mexico City. Once airborne, Cooper leapt from the plane and neither he nor the money were ever seen again. Even though the story is true it sounds like stuff straight out of a a Hollywood blockbuster and there was a film on the events back in the 1980s. Unfortunately Jeff Pickett’s new and “meditative” stab at the events is extremely stilted, slow and well, boring.
Coming down on a film like “The Skyjacker” is not fun for me to do. The folks who made the film clearly understand the technical aspects of filmmaking. I have no doubt “The Skyjacker” was done on a teensy budget and to make a 70’s period piece in which about 80% of the action (or, lack thereof) takes place on an airplane is no small feat. But for all the kudos on the fact they pulled it off one can’t escape the fact that the films pace is slower than a snail on Quaaludes and the acting is like something you see on a bad cable access movie made by high school kids.
Jeff Pickett stars as the Skyjacker and he has a tough role to pull off. As a high-jacker, you can’t exactly go big with the role and need to be quiet and intense. Yet the filmmakers choose to adorn Pickett with a really bad wig and when you couple this with his rigidity it just comes off as silly. Pickett’s way of emoting seems to come from chain smoking throughout the entire film and since I don’t smoke, I’m not sure what attitude you’re conveying when you’re puffing like a chimney.
Also awkward is a forced relationship between the Skyjacker and a stewardess he comes on to by having her “light his smoke” repeatedly and then coercing her to drink and smoke as well. It’s obvious that the filmmakers want us to feel there’s a connection between the two and that’s made clear by the sparse and inconsistent voiceover narration by the stewardess who is being interviewed after the event. But there’s simply no way or reason these two would forge a romantic connection during a 45 minute flight that’s being high-jacked.
Like I said, I take no pride in bashing a truly independent film but price tag can only go so far. For such a thrilling story, “The Skyjacker” is a snooze. I get that there was an attempt made to be a sort-of homage to 1970’s human dramas, but there’s not enough talent on-screen and the screenplay is too flaccid to create that feeling. However if the filmmakers wanted to make a film about how claustrophobic and crappy flying on a plane in the 70’s was, they have succeeded.