Short version: This movie is so stupid that if there were a contest for stupid movies that it would come in second place. Why second place? Because it's so stupid.
Shall we take this a little bit at a time? Shall we start with the over-old and over-weight Admiral who is unaware that USS Carl Vinson is a "ship" rather than a "boat"? Shall we mention the unlikelihood that Air Det and Marine Det officers would both be eating in same mess, let alone in the enlistedmess ? Shall we mention that if our Hero Navigator is going to be getting out in two weeks, that his letter of resignation would have gone in eighteen months before, and the news that he was short wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone ... he'd have a short timer chain on his belt, he'd be carrying a short timer ladder in his hand, he'd have a short timer calendar on the bulkhead in his stateroom, and his friends would be referring to him as a two-digit midget (and would have been doing so for about the last three months).
And what shall we say about that Retention Interview that the Admiral gives our boy? Does he want him to stay in or not? And why is it the Admiral, the Battle Group Commander, who's doing this? What happened to our Doughty Flier's own chain of command? Where's the Air Det's commanding officer? BG command wouldn't know or care if some particular naval aviator was career oriented or not.
Now let us go on to our boy's complaints about the world. Hey, he's flying over Bosnia. What does he want? To get stationed at Chase Naval Air Station (Motto: Chase Sets the Pace) in Beeville, Texas, where everything in town except the Baptist church and the pumps in front of the gas station are off limits, where the major hobby of the Naval Aviators is writing and submitting letters of resignation?
But wait! What's this? Closeups of the lips of guys who are speaking Wog while lines straight out of Heavies We Have Hissed appear in the subtitles and cigarette smoke curls from their lips. These are clearly the Bad Guys. Good guys don't smoke. And because they are speaking Wog, there's no need to provide them with motivation, character, or any of those other nutrients and vitamins that go into drama that anyone cares about.
Let us move on to the Crucial Mission. Boy Wonder and his none-too-swift-on-the-uptake pilot go off on a photo recon mission on Christmas Day, using their new digital camera. This camera, when in operation, periodically flashes lights (presumably so that people who are looking up at the airplane won't get those annoying 'red eye' effects). Because their lenses doesn't have a range much greater than a Brownie Box Camera, our boys have to fly at about fifty feet.
And so, doing this, just for fun and because they enjoy being court martialled, they decide to fly over a no-fly zone. A guy who's about to get out wants to lose his clearance so that he won't be able to get a job as a Boeing tech rep. Right.
And doing this, they see Something Nasty in the Woodshed (having been lured to the spot by their sees-people-through-trees-radar set). What is that nasty thing? Alas, you'd have to have seen the trailer to know, because the fact that they saw a mass grave in progress was cut from the finished print, presumably so that absolutely everything that follows would be unmotivated.
Well, they see, they photo, they scoot. And the officer in charge out in the woods sees a US aircraft go by about fifty feet up, and sends a guy to call on the phone back to headquarters, and a runner goes through several rooms to the commander, who then turns to another guy, and makes a phone call, out to yet another heavily smoking character, who then fires off a surface to air missile.
Woo hoo! This movie has only begun to get stupid. I mean, it's well known that F***ing Airedales (the standard Fleet term for Naval Aviation types) have brains that don't function below five thousand feet. But Our Hero, here -- in college he majored in Idiot with a strong minor in Imbecile, and he graduated Cum Laude.
Well, the aircraft functions properly and informs our Daring Duo that a SAM has been launched on them. So what does Flyboy do? "I can't see it! I can't see it!" he hollers, rolling the aircraft into all kinds of (low altitude) attitudes, looking for the missile. As if he needs to see it. All he really needs to do is drop some flares and book out of there. But no! Our guy, the Intensely Stupid Pilot, feels the need to outfly a heat-seeking missile. Off he goes, twisting all over the place (still at low altitude). And a minute and a half later the same Evil Wog fires a second missile. Why is our boy still in range? Because he's been circling the same spot in order to give 'em another shot, apparently. And I'm saying "Do I have to come up there and show you what to do? You're too stupid to live!"
Well, ever clever, Our Pilot drops his drop tanks (finally) which explodes for some reason, and one of the silly missiles (hasn't it run out of fuel yet?) goes for the fireball instead of the hot metal of the jet engine that heat-seeking missiles seek. (Heat seeking missiles don't go after just any heat, you know, or you couldn't use them when the sun was shining. They go after the specific frequencies of infrared that you find in jet engines.) But what's this? Remember that second missile? It skims over the top of the starboard wing of the aircraft, knocking off some of the control surfaces. Cruddy ex-Soviet equipment -- the proximity fuse didn't work. Our guys can't steer! But wait! The aircraft can't steer, but the missile that just had the mid-air collision with the aircraft, it steers fine! It does a one-eighty and comes back after our guys, and because they can't steer, this time it hits them.
So, they bail out. And down they ride with red-white-and-blue sports chutes.
Dumb and Dumber are now Behind Enemy Lines.
They quickly link up, and the Navigator (who is the Main Hero) discovers that his pilot is injured. I think he's supposed to have a broken leg, but later on he stands on it, so that can't be right. For some reason, perhaps to set up the pretty shot on the mountain top, our guys can't get through to the ship on their hand-held radios. So the Navigator stupidly leaves his pal and goes off in search of higher terrain. The need for high terrain never again limits his ability to communicate -- this is a one-time requirement. Apparently once you've established comms from the very tippy-top of a mountain, you've got 'em for good.
Anyway... our Navigator isn't half-way up that mountain before a Whole Bunch of Wogs arrive, with armored personnel carriers and everything else in the world. They find the other guy without a lot of difficulty, seeing as he's made no attempt to find cover or concealment, and his buddy deserted him. As Our Main Hero watches, horrified, through binoculars, the Wogs step right on his buddy's broken leg, then force him to stand and shoot him right in the head. And I said to myself, "Whew! They shot him in the head. That means he won't be hurt."
Alas, seeing this causes the startled Navigator to shout "NO!" so loudly that it can be heard half-way down the mountain by a guy whose ears are still ringing from having fired a pistol while not wearing hearing protection.
Hah! says the Evil Wog, there are two of them! He had not apparently noticed two red-white-and-blue sports chutes.
The officer in charge of the cluster of Wog soldiers wants to go after the other American pilot with all his troops. A sinister sniper wants to go after him alone. The Over-All-Evil-Wog commander decides to send the two of them as a team to chase after Our Hero.
Now let us look at the Evilest of the Evil Wogs, the guy listed in the credits as "Tracker." You can tell that he's evil. He wears a cheap ex-Soviet warmup jacket and track suit. (A track suit, and he's the Tracker, get it? Wink wink nudge nudge.) He has a three-day beard. He smokes. He looks like the winner of the All-Slavia Monkey Lookalike Contest. He speaks Wog in monosyllables. And he's carrying a fancy-dan scoped sniper rifle that makes him look like he's on the Serbian Olympic Biathlon Team.
Off our guy runs, and the Tracker and his buddy (who is sometimes with him and sometimes not -- the screenwriter and the director occasionally forget about him) head off tracking him.
But ... for now they've lost him. Our hero goes to the very tippy-top of the nearest convenient mountain, there to make radio contact with his ship. And there, on the ship, the Admiral (who, for reasons that escape me, is eating in the enlisted mess) is informed that one of our planes has been shot down, and its navigator is on the radio right now asking for him. You'd think they'd have noticed before now that the plane was down.
We quickly learn that neither the Admiral nor the Navigator have the slightest clue how to talk on radios. They sometimes use "roger" when they mean "affirmative" and sometimes "affirmative" when they mean "roger," sometimes they say "over," but mostly they forget, and sometimes they keep right on talking after they've said "over."
Did I mention the French Admiral and the Civilian Reporter who are, even now, on board the ship?
Uh oh. Things are about to become really stupid. I must take a good stiff mug of coffee before I can continue.
Yes, there's a Perfidious Frog Admiral on board. He's from NATO. And there's a reporter on board, who will only become important later in the plot.
The Perfidious Frog has seen Marines on deck putting on face paint. He storms up to the Admiral's cabin and demands to know what's going on. (Big Hint for the Frog: Getting into cammie is what Marines do. They get up, get dressed, brush their teeth, put on cammie ... it's like that.) But the Admiral explains that they are off to rescue the downed flyer. "No!" exclaims the Frog. "That would endanger the Peace Process!"
This is total malarkey, since sending in a rescue team won't endanger the Peace Process ... if it's done right no one will ever know it's there, and the Peace Process should have mechanisms in place for humanitarian operations, which rescuing downed flyers certainly is. Even if shooting down airplanes hadn't endangered that Peace Process already.
Ever compliant, the Admiral orders the Marines to stand down. What National Command Authority has to say about this we never find out. Did someone -- anyone? -- inform the CNO that a f***ing Airedale was down in Wogland?
Now, rather than tell the Navigator to sit tight back when he was on the mountaintop, the Admiral had told Our Hero to go to some other location. (With all the walking around he does by the end of this flick he could have walked to the border, but leave that aside.) So he does this. But he appears to have fallen asleep during Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) School. One of the things they teach you in SERE School is to Avoid Tactically Significant Terrain. Things like (in addition to the tops of mountains) roads, bridges, towns, paths, crossroads, open fields, industrial complexes, and, oh, dam faces.
So there's our boy, sitting sunning himself in his olive flight suit against the white concrete face of a dam, when Pow! a bullet hits right beside his head! It's our pal Tracker, who, despite a stationary target in bright sunlight against a contrasting background, misses. No wonder he got cut from the Serbian Olympic Biathlon Team.
He probably doesn't ski too well either.
Our Hero goes wandering after this, and one of the places he wanders is through an industrial area. He doesn't seem to care that anyone who spotted him there might casually mention to, say, a Wog, that there's this tall blond American pilot in a flight suit wandering around.
Then! He notices that the ground is strewn with trip wires. Closeups of mines! Oh, no!
And things get worse! A car pulls up and Wogs with weapons get out! They see him! They raise their weapons! He starts to run, avoiding the trip wires!
Then! The Wog, unaware of the mines, hits a trip wire himself! Massive explosion! Our Hero is saved! But what's this! The rest of the mines are exploding! He runs! Explosions all around! He outruns landmines! Wow! If people really could outrun landmines there'd be a lot fewer one-legged men in the world.
And! Egad! Here comes the Tracker!
Well, by dint of more running around, Our Hero gets to the rendevous spot. There are Evil Wogs all over the place speaking guttural Wog, carrying Wog weapons. Our boy lies in a ditch, and calls in on his radio to say that he's ready to be extracted.
The Admiral comes back and says that there's been a change in plans, and he has to go somewhere else. Numbskull then argues with the Admiral. "I'm ready to be extracted now!" he shouts, unconcerned by the close presence of Wogs, unaware that the Perfidious Frog has forbidden his rescue.
The Clever Admiral has a Clever Plan! He will force the Perfidious Frog to allow him to rescue his boy! Remember that reporter? Admiral Dimbulb informs the reporter that an American Flier is trapped Behind Enemy Lines!
The Frog is Furious. But now, with the international spotlight on him, he must act, and he tells the Admiral to send Our Hero to a Safety Zone. So he does that. What makes a Safety Zone a Safety Zone isn't specified. Are the Wogs aware that those are safety zones? They can't look there?
Then ... the Admiral goes forward, deep below decks, through a door guarded by Marines, to find a bunch of civilians. These sweaty individuals (apparently the air conditioning broke down in their space) are CIA guys, and they have a Super Padoopy Satellite with which they can zoom in to get an Infrared View of Our Hero On the Run. Which leads me to wonder why we needed recon flights at all, if these guys can do that.
And here's our hero, running! And here's a line of Evil Wogs, following!
Our hero falls into a pit full of dead bodies, and hides among them! The Wogs, baffled, mill around a while, and leave. This is the same pit that he apparently photographed several scenes before.
Next, Our Hero comes to a road. And here comes a pickup truck, and the radio (or perhaps tape deck - it's never made clear) in that truck is playing American music! Our Hero leaps from his place of concealment to flag down the truck. He goes and sits in the back with a bunch more armed civilians. (I can see why they made him sit in the back -- after rolling around in a pit full of rotting corpses he probably doesn't smell real good.) By great good luck, one of them speaks English, and by great good luck, they're going the way he wants to go to get to that Safety Zone.
The truck drives off, and by great good luck they don't drive straight to the nearest Wog checkpoint, where the last we see is the driver of the truck (as luck would have it an Elvis impersonator) strolling off counting a wad of cash while the Evil Wog Commander shoots Our Hero in the head.
Then the Tracker arrives on scene. He examines the tiremarks on the road, and gets on his radio and calls the Evil Wog Commander, saying words to the effect of "Bwah ha ha, he's headed to Nameoftown."
Good tracking, guy.
Which leads me to suspect that the Tracker should have just driven up and down the road in a pickup truck waiting for Our Hero to flag him down, rather than wandering around in the woods getting rained on.
Well, Our Hero makes friends with a young man in the back of the truck who speaks English.
They arrive in Nameoftown, in the middle of a battle with tanks and machine guns and everything. Our hero takes refuge in a department store. Does he take this opportunity to grab himself a set of civilian clothes? Nope! He finds a dead Wog soldier, and switches clothes with him! Fortunately the guy is his exact size, and the uniform he grabs isn't full of holes and bloodstains and stuff.
Equally fortunately, the standard Wog uniform includes full-face black ski masks. As if any of the Wogs would recognize him anyway.
Did I mention that the Evil Wog Commander has been busy trying to reassemble the downed F-18 with a singleness of purpose that would make an NTSB accident investigation look pale? He's desperate to find the film from the camera so that no one will find out what he's been up to. Oh, no! It's a digital camera! The film reel is empty! The pictures could be anywhere !
Now the Wogs have been concerned because there's this TV news about a missing aviator, and the Evil Wog Commander has been promising all kinds of cooperation. And here's this body in an American flight suit. So... in order to throw off International Attention, he has a couple of his guys hold up the body in the flight suit (with a bag over its head) and says "We have found the American! Alas, he died in the fighting here, no doubt killed by the wicked rebels!" Saying words to the effect of "Beats us where the heck he is" would have been smart . Having any of the characters do anything smart would be a first for this picture.
Unfortunately, in the course of all the excitement, Our Hero's radio has been destroyed.
Our Hero links up with the guy from the back of the pickup truck and they walk through the middle of an open field to the Safety Zone to get picked up.
Now things are about to get really stupid.
You recall the Perfidious Frog, right? Forced by International Attention, he'd sent a rescue mission to the Safety Zone. And here comes the helicopter! And there's Our Hero, dressed in a Wog uniform, holding a Wog weapon, accompanied by a civilian, standing in the middle of a field.
Now -- the Frog Admiral hears the TV report of the guy in the American uniform with the bag on his head being found dead. So... there's no need for a pickup, right? Right! He orders the helicopter back.
Our Hero, seeing the helo turn around, starts to fire his weapon into the air!
And I said to myself, Riiiiight. The guys in the helo, expecting to find one US flyer, find two people, one of them being a civilian, one of them in a Wog uniform carrrying a Wog weapon, and the Wog starts shooting ... even without orders from the Perfidious Frog they should boogie out of there.
Well, our Handsome Hero has a thought. He knows that there's a locator beacon in the ejection seat that he departed in. It's long since run out of power. But ... he goes up to the seat (returning to where he started), and fixes the beacon (this involves putting in a new nine-volt battery, which he just happens to have). And ... the missing data disk, with the digital photos, just happens to be in this ejection seat!
What no one notices is that he's right back where he started, where he should have stayed, sitting flat on his ass under some nice cover and concealment for the past three days, waiting for the rescue while the Wogs died of lung cancer. (Either that, or evading and making his way to friendly territory.) What an incompetent jerk. I don't want him in my Navy.
Back on the ship, the Admiral sees the beacon for the ejection seat come back up. "Our boy is alive!" he says, or words to that effect, and, bucked up by his aide, a Master Chief who, for reasons that escape me, he calls by his first name, leaps into a helicopter himself to fly over there to rescue Our Hero.
Back in Nameoftown, the Evil Wog Commander notices the beacon. "I know where he is!" he says, and radios to the Tracker to tell him. Why the Evil Wog Commander didn't go pick up those seats while they were actively transmitting earlier, with his determination to reassemble the entire aircraft, escapes me.
Meanwhile, the Tracker is walking through the woods with his companion, who doesn't have his group of guys with him this time. Click! The companion steps on a landmine, but it isn't going to go off until he lifts his foot. The Tracker leaves him! What a fink! The Tracker walks backwards through a minefield! He's brain damaged!
Then ... down at the ejection seat (where it's snowy and winter, although everywhere else has been rainy and autumn), the Tracker prepares to shoot Our Hero! But! Our Hero has fooled him! He's really hiding elsewhere, and he leaps out, and they have a fistfight! Why a fistfight? Because how else can they both be on screen in the same shot at the same time?
This ends when Our Hero stabs the Tracker with a lit pencil flare. And I said, Wow! If he had flares with him, back when the helo was inbound why didn't he pop a flare instead of firing that weapon?
But wait! What's this? A rumble of treads and a dozen armored personnel carriers and dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Wogs arrive shoulder to shoulder.
But wait! Just at this moment, three US helicopters appear, led by the Admiral, and they have rockets and machine guns!
Everyone's shooting! There's Our Hero, in a dark uniform, running across a white snow-covered field, and dozens of guys are shooting at him with full-automatic weapons, with explosions on either side of him. No one hits him. Wait! He stops! He forgot to go back and grab the CD with the incriminating photos on it! He turns, runs back, still amid machinegun fire and cannon fire and rockets going both directions, but no one hits him. He grabs the CD and runs back, tracers flying all around him, shells kicking up dirt to left and right, and no one hits him ! The Wogs make Imperial Storm Troopers look like crack shots! Maybe the Tracker really was on the Serbian Olympic Biathlon Team!
A Marine dangling from a line snatches Our Hero from the edge of a cliff, and away they go, the Wogs also being unable to hit helicopters. As they fly back to the aircraft carrier, the Admiral hands back Our Hero's letter of resignation, which he just happens to have stuffed inside his flight suit, which Our Hero crumples up and throws away. Hooray! Hooray for us!
What a stupid movie.