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Slipstream

Year: 1989
Production Co: Entertainment FIlm
Director: Steven Lisberger
Producer: Gary Kurzt
Writer: Tony Kayden
Cast: Bill Paxton, Mark Hamill, Bob Peck, Kitty Aldridge

It's one of the enduring mysteries of modern cinema how the lead actor in the most impactful film in history, the one we think of when we think 'the movies', went nowhere while his co-star Harrison Ford went on to a long career as a Hollywood A-lister (Carrie Fisher might have done the same had she not fallen victim to drugs, alcohol and mental illness).

The interesting this is that when you look at Hamill's CV it's jam packed with projects after Return of the Jedi. Until he became known as the voice of the Joker in numerous Batman projects and games he did straight to video clag and voices in cartoons one after the other. An online search won't help, saying only that producers wouldn't cast a kid for whom the shadow of Luke Skywalker loomed so large. It was just the way the universe dealt Hamill's cards.

For his biggest stab at acclaim since the Star Wars trilogy, Slipstream falls way short. It depicts a world of the far future where most of humanity has been decimated thanks to pollution and where the remainder eke out a living by traveling in gliders on the enormous winds of the title that roar around Earth's surface.

Bill Paxton is Matt, a drifter, scavenger and opportunist who nabs a murder suspect from the clutches of dedicated cops Will (Hamill) and Belitski and plans to collect the bounty himself.

But his captive, Byron (Peck, later Muldoon in Jurassic Park) is an enigmatic man who's as childlike and unknowing as he is eternally wise and has a secret that takes he and Matt on a strange path through the spiritualist enclaves and borderline hippie communes around them where deeply religious people worship the slipstream as their God.

The plot goes (literally and narratively) into some very strange places that hold it decidedly back from the thrills-and-battles sci-fi of Star Wars, veering almost into 2001: A Space Odyssey territory with the final location – an underground civilisation where the inhabitants live like rich Upper East Side New Yorkers.

Some of the visual flourishes as well as the soundtrack have an epic edge that befits the genre, but there's not really enough story in there, and what story there is feels like it came from a few nights over mounds of cocaine.

It was the film that broke producer Gary Kurtz, who ploughed his money from Star Wars into both it and his expensive divorce, divesting all rights to it as a result and putting it into the public domain.

As well as that – though this is completely visceral and unfounded – everything about Bill Paxton annoys me.

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