Skyjacked came out in 1972 to, I believe; capitalize on the huge success two years earlier of Airport. When disaster films are discussed this film is never mentioned and it’s easy to see why. There is no disaster. Oh, sure, the threat of disasters loom throughout the film but how is anything going to really happen when you have Charlton Heston flying the airplane? That’s as sure a sign that disaster will be averted as any. The film tries to boast an all-star cast but after Heston we are left with the likes of Yvette Mimieux, Walter Pidgeon, Claude Akins (in a brief role essentially filling in for George Kennedy), Rosey Grier, James Brolin, Jeanne Crain and Susan Dey. Not exactly the most A-list of actors.
Skyjacked has two very big problems going for it but before I get to them let me lay down the paper thin story for you. We meet all the characters just before the flight. Heston is the pilot and Mimieux is the head stewardess. They used to be a couple but now she is heavily involved with Heston’s co-pilot. Can you say drama? The rest of the passengers come aboard including Grier as a cellist who is over protective of the instrument and Brolin as an Army veteran going to a wedding. Then, before you can say, ‘Crash landing,’ a message in lipstick on the bathroom wall reads that there is a bomb on board and that the plane must be diverted to Alaska.
Ok here comes problem number one for the film. These odd notes keep coming up one by one for an hour. Heston quietly agrees to fly all the way to Alaska instead of landing at the nearest airport. Fine I can live with that. What I find totally hard to believe is that Heston and the rest of cast takes so long to discover the identity of the nut case. I mean it takes a LONG time for anyone to catch on. Director John Guillerman introduces us to a bunch of lifeless supporting characters and asks us to care about them. So we spend about fifteen minutes sorting through these stiffs, learning their dramatic backgrounds (Heston and Mimieux once had an affair but now it’s over and she is sleeping with the co-pilot!) and easily spotting the skyjacker, we are left to wait for these dimwits to catch up with us.
Once his or her identity is revealed the skyjacker is basically allowed the run of the airplane until it lands in Alaska. The second half of the film has the plane taking off again and heading to Russia. Does anyone honestly believe that plane would be allowed to take off again? That is the second problem with the film so in essence most of the plot is simply too hard to believe.
I will admit there are a few tense moments in the final act of the film. As the airplane nears Russian airspace, Heston is repeatedly warned to turn around or risk being shot down. Heston tries explaining his situation to no avail. The Russian sends out fighter pilots who ride behind the jet and prepare to fire. I won’t reveal anymore because if you do ever attempt to watch this movie you might as well get to this point to see the best part. But more silliness ensues and turns Skyjacked into a ridiculous action film that I can clearly see why has been forgotten the last 40 years.