Honorable in intent but risible in execution, Burning Blue is a melodrama about a fighter jet crash investigation that becomes a witch-hunt for gay naval aviators.
Its inspiration was not Top Gun‘s oft-remarked homoeroticism, but co-screenwriter and director DMW Greer’s own experiences as a Navy pilot in the ’80s, long before President Obama abolished Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011.
Greer first staged this story as a play in London in 1995. No one goes to the theater expecting to see aerial dogfights depicted realistically, but onscreen, the low budget (and unsurprising lack of U.S. Navy cooperation) is more distracting.
It’s impossible not to notice, for example, that our lead actors, Trent Ford, Rob Mayes, and Morgan Spector — who have fewer points of emotional articulation than Maverick or Iceman, regrettably, and don’t play volleyball, either — never appear in the same frame as “their” aircraft.
This wouldn’t matter if the writing or performances were more convincing. But Greer’s scenario about best buds who aspire to fly the Space Shuttle is overheated. Protagonist Dan (Ford) helps his copilot (Spector) conceal a problem with his eyesight that would cost him his wings if discovered. Dan, meanwhile, has the Right Stuff, but once an NCIS investigator finds out he danced at a gay club with his shirt off while on shore leave, the fix is in.
Movingly, Spector’s married straight-guy character is jealous of his bro’s intimacy with Mayes (“I saw the eye contact between you and lover boy just now!”). Arbitrary toggles to black-and-white photography during sudsy confrontations like this one only underscore the pervasive sense of amateurishness.
America’s professional LGBT warriors deserve better.