Skyjacked, a solid if unspectacular entry to the genre.
A veteran airline pilot with a military background, Capt. Hank O'Hara (Charlton Heston) boards his flight to Minneapolis on a Boeing 707 like any other flight. Once the plane is airborne though, a passenger discovers a message in the bathroom. Written on the mirror in lipstick is a message telling O'Hara to divert the plane to Anchorage or a bomb will be exploded. Is it serious? Is it a prank? While they're trying to decide for sure, a second threat/message is found, demanding the flight be diverted immediately. O'Hara goes along with it, knowing nothing can be achieved by calling the bomber's bluff. The plane heads to Anchorage but the weather is horrific for hundreds of miles in every direction. Can O'Hara get the plane to its new destination? Can they find out who the bomber is in time?
Rampant during the 1970s before dying out a bit in the early 1980s, the disaster flick genre produced some classics, some duds and a whole lot of flicks right in between. From director John Guillermin, 'Skyjacked' is right in the middle there. It's not really good, and it's not really bad. In the end, it's an entertaining, sometimes very tense disaster flick that has it's moments. For the most part it avoids a lot of the overdramatic pratfalls that can doom any movie. A nutso bomber has a bomb on an airliner packed with passengers. Do we need much else in the drama department? We waste little time before getting on board and letting the fun begin. The story does take a surprising twist near the halfway point, but I thought it worked pretty well. Yeah, it comes out of left field, but considering who the bomber is, I liked it.
It is a disaster flick so who should star? If you answered anyone else other than Charlton Heston, shame on you. In the 1970s, his name seemed synonymous with the genre. Are they all great performances? Nah, not really, but him just being there definitely legitimizes the movie. He commits to the part, and it's always fun to see him do his thing. I liked his Capt. O'Hara, a tough as nails pilot who will do anything he can to ensure that his passengers, crew and plane makes it through okay. His crew includes Mike Henry as his co-pilot and Ken Swofford as his navigator with Yvette Mimieux as Angela, the head stewardess who had a previous "thing" with O'Hara. Wouldn't you know it? Those feelings might be creeping back up again! I know, right, I didn't see that coming either!
Following the disaster movie formula, we get a whole lot of characters rounding out the cast. Will everyone make it? Who goes nuts? No spoilers here as to the identity of the bomber mostly because I had it ruined for me via a Netflix plot description. Let's start with Walter Pidgeon as a U.S. Senator on the way to Washington D.C., his son (Nicholas Hammond) who has an interest in free-spirited Susan Dey. James Brolin plays a U.S. soldier trying to get to his sister's wedding with Roosevelt Grier sharing his row of seats with him as a musician traveling with his rather large instrument. Mariette Hartley is a very pregnant woman traveling by herself while Jeanne Crain and Ross Elliott play a married couple moving to a new job after some past job troubles. Mostly a cameo, Claude Akins plays a radar specialist who helps O'Hara bring the plane down safely. Not exactly the cast of Towering Inferno in terms of star power, but it's a fun cast with some cool supporting parts.
How about the weirder portions of the movie? My favorite has Heston's O'Hara smoking a pipe...in the cockpit. In general, there seems to be a lot of smoking on-board. I know its the 1970s, but talk about a funny time capsule. A close second in the ridiculous department is pregnant Mariette Hartley turning down a water for a....Bloody Mary. Maybe her going into labor is a drink-induced karma, who knows. There's also a couple of dreamy, cloud-like flashbacks that are pretty bad, but those pale in comparison to the bomber's hallucinations. The story isn't great, keeping things on a superficial level with basically all the characters, but I did enjoy it in a stupid, entertaining popcorn flick kind of way. Decent disaster flick.
Skyjacked (1972): ** 1/2 /****