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Blue Sky

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Blue Sky

Starring: Jessica Lange, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: Tony Richardson
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: September 1994
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Powers Boothe, Carrie Snodgress, Amy Locane, Chris O'Donnell, Mitchell Ryan, Dale Dye, Tim Scott, Anna Klemp

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1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

"Better late than never" is the phrase that could be applied to BLUE SKY, 1994 drama directed by Tony Richardson. Shot in 1991, but not released due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures, this movie was finally unearthed three years later. It was too late for its director Richardson who had died from AIDS shortly after the end of shooting, but not for the rest of cast and crew, especially Jessica Lange who surprised many by getting an "Oscar" for the role in this film.

The plot of this film is set in the year 1962, during the most intense period of Cold War. Major Hank Marshall (played by Tommy Lee Jones) is a scientist assigned to help conducting nuclear bomb tests. Being a radiation expert, he is too aware of the effects those tests may have on the environment and civilian population so he wants to abandon atmospheric tests in favour of much safer, subterranean tests. The military higher-ups don't particularly like his heretical views, but most of the Hank's problems come from his family, namely his wife Carly (played by Jessica Lange). She is very attractive yet emotionally unstable and her manic phases tend to manifest in public outbursts of scandalous behaviour and open flirting with other men. Hanks nevertheless loves his wife and he is always able to forgive her, but not the military authorities who handle this perpetual scandal by relocating Marshall, his wife and two daughters from one base after another. The latest relocation brought them from Hawaii to the ugly, run-down Army base in Alabama. The base commander Vince Johnson (played by Powers Boothe) is soon attracted to the glamorous scientist's wife.

The plot for BLUE SKY consists of two stories, each of them suitable for feature film of its own. One depicts the struggle of lone individual against all-powerful organisation and it could serve as an excellent history lesson for post-Chernobyl generations, showing them the mentality of Cold War, which sacrificed environment, individual lives, basic morality and common sense for the sake of nuclear supremacy. This Strangelovian story is followed by more intimate yet equally fascinating love story between Mr. and Mrs. Marshall. Unlike most of Hollywood love stories, this one shows the often very painful sacrifices people must make in order to have something resembling a good relationship. Mixing those two stories into one plot could have looked like a recipe for disaster, but screenplay Rama Laurie Stagner, Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichting succeeds in that. The script has some of the cliches, including melodramatic, predictable and not very convincing finale, but the characters and their interactions are well-drawn and the story in general engaging from start to finish. The best job was done by actors. Jessica Lange truly deserved her "Oscar" - her portrayal of Carly is wonderful, both on the outside (especially in scenes where she brings touch of Monroesque Hollywood glamour and sexuality to the dreary and dull setting of early 1960s US military) and inside, when she makes us understand why her husband loves her so much despite the endless series of humiliation and embarrassment. Tommy Lee Jones is also very good in the role of a man whose love is stronger than machistic pride, and whose stoicism in matters of heart manifests as virtue in matters of military ethics. Amy Locane, who was very young during the production of this film, is very remarkable in the role of Marshalls' older daughter Alexandra. All in all, BLUE SKY, despite some flaws, is an interesting and touching drama that deserves more attention than its single "Oscar" might indicate.

Copyright 2001 Dragan Antulov

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