Flight of the Black Angel

February 22, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

This thin thriller stars Peter Strauss (83 Hours ‘Til Dawn) as a lean, mean Air Force colonel who trains fighter pilots and gives downbeat pep talks like ”Up there, dying is easy, boys.” William O’Leary (Bull Durham) is Strauss’ top student — that is, until the young man has a breakdown, murders his parents and brother, and starts flying around in an F-16 equipped with a thermonuclear weapon.

Strauss goes aloft to duel with the demented fellow, and much of Flight of Black Angel consists of well-shot aerial footage of swooping, diving jets. (The TV movie’s special effects team included veterans of such feature films as Top Gun, The Hunt for Red October, and Die Hard.) But there’s not much suspense and no character to feel strongly about.

From the opening seconds of the movie, O’Leary is shifty-eyed and sullen, and his pilot classmates suspect he’s not quite all there. Strauss, however, defends him, saying to the class, ”When he’s up in the air, he believes it’s for real.” ”That’s ’cause he’s a nut,” retorts one student. When O’Leary pulls a dangerous air stunt in the opening of the movie, someone asks Strauss, ”Are you thinking of grounding him?” ”No,” he says mildly, ”I think he’ll be all right.” Although he’s supposed to be our hero, Strauss is shown to be a ridiculously poor judge of character — either that or scriptwriter Henry Dominic wants us to think that O’Leary’s is the sort of obsessive personality the Air Force wants to encourage.

O’Leary snaps while watching a born-again TV preacher shouting, ”Sin is coming, the prophets tell us!” The unstable student goes through the rest of the movie quoting from the Book of Revelation as he kidnaps and kills hostages and threatens to ”bring the light of heaven” — i.e., nuclear destruction — to innocent people. Like the recent Deadly Intentions….Again?, in which a character goes bonkers after seeing his life depicted in a TV movie, Flight of Black Angel is a TV show that blames TV (and in this case, televangelists as well) for helping to drive people insane. If the movie were better, the implications of such a strong theme would be worth pondering.

Flight of the Black Angel

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