A surprising box-office flop next to its precursors, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, this by and large refuses cute nostalgic manipulation (an easy option for a vivid yarn on the declining days and shrinking frontiers of aerial barnstorming) to place some coherent emphasis on a critique of the unquestioned 'heroic' hooks of the earlier films: adventurism, conmanship and male bonding. Redford's World War I flier has by 1926 tailored his sustaining lies about his daredevil rivalry with former German opponent Brundin (now extended into stuntsmanship) to the point where he almost believes them himself, and is certainly convincing enough to employ them with a dangerous seductiveness. His deeds and his deceptions (and his irresponsibility) are, however, rhymed with those of cinema itself, presented as the only scheme within which they really make any sense. An underrated attempt to scrutinise the immature American screen hero, which simultaneously works as a fine belated addition to Hollywood's recurrent romantic fascination with flying.
Cast and crew
George Roy Hill