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USA 1994
Directed by
Tony Richardson
101 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Blue Sky

Although Blue Sky was filmed in 1991 it wasn’t released until three years later due to bankruptcy proceeding against its production company, Orion Films. A superior  “army base life” story (compare, for instance, John Huston’s Reflections In A Golden Eye) it was the last film for veteran British director Tony Richardson.

Set in the early 1960s against the backdrop of the escalating Cold War it tells the story of  a US  Army officer Major Hank Marshall (Tommy Lee Jones), his wife (Jessica Lange) and their two teenage daughters (Amy Locane and Anna Klemp). Trained as a scientist and working on the Army’s nuclear weapons program he is beginning to despair as the Commie-obsessed military hawks ignore his warnings about the dangers of radiation. Meanwhile his manic-depressive wife swings between playing the tease for Marshall’s army cronies and fits of depression over the crumminess of her life. Despite this Hank adores her and her children have learnt to live with the roller-coaster environment

Drawn from the  experiences of co-scripter Rama Laurie Stagner’s childhood, the film is best when it deals with family dynamics, especially the difficult but committed relationship between husband and wife.  Lange, topping a fine career that had really taken off in 1982 with Frances (and which, not unusually for Oscar winners began to tail-off after this) deservedly won a Best Female Actor Oscar for her portrayal of the volatile army wife, whilst Jones is solid in support as her loyal and loving husband. The film is less effective when it deals with the nuclear program material, particularly when it comes the glibly conventional resolution which is so hurried and trite that one suspect that Richardson had nothing to do with it. 

Jack Nitzsche's melancholy score, which is reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s work for David Lynch, adds a nice touch to proceedings.




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