Main cast: Trent Ford (Daniel Lynch), Morgan Spector (William Stephensen), Tammy Blanchard (Susan Sephensen), Rob Mayes (Matthew Blackwood), William Lee Scott (Charlie Trumbo), Cotter Smith (Admiral Lynch), Michael Cumpsty (Admiral Stephensen), Michael Sirow (John Cokely), Mark Doherty (Skipper), and Chris Chalk (Special Agent Jones)
Director: DMW Greer
Lt William Stephensen and his buddy Daniel Lynch get into trouble at the start of Burning Blue when they have to abandon their chopper. William has poor eyesight, but he conceals this because he dreams of one day becoming an astronaut and going to space. Dan takes the blame for this accident, but this event triggers an investigation that leads to Special Agent Jones considering the possibility of a “gay cell” within the Navy, where pilots refusing to be outed choose to crash kamikaze-style. The thing is, Dan is a closeted gay man, and he is a relationship with another fellow, Matthew Blackwood. William always felt threatened by Matthew because that man is the third wheel in what was usually the close bromance between him and Dan, but he has no idea until later how close Dan and Matthew are. Oh, and William doesn’t approve of gay people. During the whole mess, friendships would be torn apart, relationships broken, and everyone feels as blue as the title of the movie suggests.
I was initially intrigued by this movie because of the trailer on YouTube. With only With or Without You – the version by Scala and Kolaczny Brothers – playing over silent scenes of thwarted gay love and hot guys looking at one another yearningly, the trailer suggested that this is one movie I’d watch through blurry vision because tears are streaming down my eyes and I am snorting gracelessly into wads of tissue. A story of gay relationships in an environment gripped by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy – how can I resist?
Unfortunately, the actual movie is an incoherent mess. The best parts of this movie are in that trailer, everything else is choppy and disjointed. The so-called romantic chemistry between Dan and Matthew is muted to the point of almost non-existence, as the two men only long pensively at one another. I’d have liked to see more moments that would drive home the poignancy of this doomed relationship, something that lets me know that these two men would rather lose everything else than one another. When the inevitable occurs, I find myself unmoved because these two men’s relationship never feels real to me.
Oddly, considering how prominent that romance is featured in the trailer, the romance is actually overshadowed by the relationship between William and Dan. Even this aspect of the story is marred by hammy and heavy-handed scenes designed to drive home the persecution of LGBT folks in the Navy. The movie goes for cheap and preachy sentiments over subtlety, and the end result is a mess bogged down hammy dialogues (“We are warriors paid to defend the country, not spill our guts and frolic in the daisies!”), one-dimensional villains like Special Agent Jones, and awkwardly inserted flashback scenes.
It’s a shame really. The main actors are easy on the eyes and they play their roles well, often rising above the ludicrously bombastic lines they are forced to utter, and the story is one that deserves to be told. Just not in the way Burning Blue turned out to be.