<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5Rate this
Time Out saysAn unsatisfactory mix of low-key heroics, buddy-buddy humour, and anti-war sentiment, this downbeat Vietnam pic has reconnaissance expert Hackman (codename Bat 21) - a career colonel with no frontline experience - struggling to survive in a jungle crawling with North Vietnamese troops after ejecting from his plane. Making radio contact with spotter pilot Glover (codename Birddog), he maps out a coded route to a rendezvous. Cue for a cross-country hike punctuated by brushes with NVA patrols, a machete-wielding peasant, and an ambiguously angelic Vietnamese child. Certain scenes achieve a genuine tension, as when Hackman has to watch a captured chopper pilot sent into a waterlogged minefield by NVA soldiers; but this is immediately undercut by a retaliatory bombing raid that destroys a camouflaged NVA hideout, regardless of civilian casualties. Like the film as a whole, such scenes elicit sympathy more for the tacitly guilty Hackman than for the innocent victims.