Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. star as two civilian pilots who attempt to fly contraband to Laos during the midst of the Vietnam War. Based on Christopher Robbins' 1979 non-fiction novel, 1990's “Air America” follows two American flyboys who adopt the task of being civilian pilots during the Vietnam War. Originally a traffic pilot for a Los Angeles radio station, Billy Covington (Robert Downey Jr.) loses his pilot's license because of his reckless behaviour and decides to take a job in Laos with a non-military company called “Air America”. is noticed by a government agent who presents the opportunity of working for a non-military company in Laos called “Air America”. Upon arrival in the Southeast Asian country, Billy falls under the wing of fellow pilot Gene Ryack (Mel Gibson), an arms merchant that hopes to retire by making the biggest sale of his life via the black market.
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Though all seems well, Billy and another pilot are shot down while transporting livestock and Gene and Air America's rescue effort uncovers that the service is indeed a cover for opium trade that involves Laotian General Lu Soong. The twosome escaping Communist squadrons and discuss the moral implications of their missions, but they find themselves in a helicopter crash that leaves them stranded in the jungles of Laos. They eventually retreat to Gene's house and Billy discovers that it's also inhabited by his wife and children, and the image further convinces him to move forward with quitting his job as a pilot. His last mission leads to another disaster and the dilemma influences Gene to give up on his retirement plan as they rescue refugees and ultimately reveal the U.S. military's internal wrongdoings.
Best part of story, including ending:
On paper, "Air America" seems like a "buddy movie" but it excels by highlighting various themes, including messages about the Vietnam War's opium trade. Because of that, the movie's a "thinker" and a great mix of action and comedy.
Best scene in story:
One of the most memorable scenes is where Gene faces the dilemma of sacrificing his weapons cache to rescue refugees and plot an escape. He reluctantly agrees to give up his low-key future and once safe, immediately finds a way to make up for his retirement plan.
Opinion about the main character:
As much as Billy forms his own opinion, his stance on the opium trade and "Air America" feels too scripted and the storyline steers towards the usual "let's change everyone's stance to make the world a better place". It's a good cause but it's an overexposed theme.