'Burning Blue': Film Review

Burning Blue Still - P 2014

Burning Blue Still - P 2014

This well-intentioned but amateurish effort fails to bring its important subject to compelling life.

DMW Greer's melodrama concerns a Navy investigation that uncovers a secret relationship between two fighter pilots.

A tired feeling afflicts DMW Greer’s directorial debut, which is based on his semi-autobiographical play first staged in London’s West End nearly two decades ago. Concerning an investigation into the suspected gay activities of several U.S. Navy fighter pilots during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, Burning Blue squanders its admirable intentions with its amateurish filmmaking and ham-fisted dialogue. Opening both theatrically and on demand, commercial prospects look bleak.

Set in the 1990’s, the obviously low-budget effort depicts the close friendship between pilots Dan (Trent Ford) and Will (Morgan Spector), who become embroiled in an NCIS investigation after a series of fatal accidents, at least one of which was caused by the latter’s hidden vision problem. Soon the investigation becomes less about the crashes than about such things as Dan’s visit to a NYC gay nightclub, his burgeoning close relationship with new pilot Matt (Rob Mayes), and such ephemera as a photo of Dan and several of his shipmates posing topless in a photograph that he explains was an attempt to recreate a mural in the Sistine Chapel.

The screenplay co-written by Greer and Helene Kvale features heavy doses of melodrama -- much of it involving Will’s crumbling marriage to his unsuspecting wife (Tammy Blanchard) -- and frequently laughable dialogue. “We had a drunken night in New York, let’s chalk it up to experience,” one of the principal characters comments, while the hard-nosed investigator (Michael Sirow) wants to know if Dan and Matt “are doing the dirty deed.”

Although the film is admirable in its intent on exposing the rampant homophobia afflicting the armed forces in the era in which it’s set -- and which continues in various forms to the present day -- it suffers from an unfortunate coyness in its depiction of the relationships among the principal characters. Practically harkening back to the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, minus the florid style -- even Top Gun was more overtly homoerotic -- it’s a mostly tedious, rambling affair that is only made bearable by the sensitive performances of the three leads actors.

Production: Articulated Pictures

Cast: Trent Ford, Morgan Spector, Rob Mayes, William Lee Scott, Cotter Smith, Michael Cumpsty, Tammy Blanchard

Director: DMW Greer

Screenwriters: DMW Greer, Helen Kvale

Producers: Andrew Halliday, DMW Greer, Arthur J. Kelleher

Executive producers: John Hadity, Mike Harrop, Sig De Miguel, Stephen Vincent

Director of photography: Frederic Fasano

Editor: Bill Henry

Production designer: Robert Savina

Costume designer: Amy Lynn Zwart

Composer: James Lavino

Rated R, 104 minutes