Milius Movie Review
A biography of iconic filmmaker John Milius, this engaging documentary features some of the biggest stars of all time talking about their friend who changed the movies forever. And he's got such a huge presence that we love listening to his stories almost as much as we've loved watching his films over the decades. This movie also explores his controversial image as a right-wing gun lover, but the salient fact is that his friends and colleagues clearly love him dearly.
John Milius has always been a man's man. His asthma prevented him from joining the military, so he instead went to film school in the 1960s with a group that included Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese. And these young turks were exactly what cinema needed as the studio system ended. Milius' uncredited screenplay for Dirty Harry got him work as a writer and director, and his crowning achievement remains the screenplay for Apocalypse Now. He's also proud of his passion project Big Wednesday, an iconic surfing film that vanished without a trace when the studio abandoned it. But everything changed with Red Dawn, the teen fantasy that gave him his pro-gun reputation as a pariah. He's been less busy since, but is still working on his long-gestating epic about Genghis Khan, even though he has spent the past few years recovering from a debilitating stroke.
Like Milius himself, this is a beefy, jovial movie that zips along at a fast pace, observing telling details everywhere without any real criticism. Milius calls himself a "zen anarchist" rather than a conservative, and it's fascinating to see his life-loving personality emerge in the clips. Meanwhile, we see all of the iconic lines he's written and cinema-changing moments he's had a hand in, from writing Robert Shaw's amazing USS Indianapolis speech in Jaws to teaching Arnold Schwarzenegger how to hold a sword for Conan.
This is the man we have to thank for summer blockbusters, Arnie's entire career, "Do you feel lucky?" and "I love the smell of napalm in the morning". It places him firmly in context with his pals as they forever changed the business with movies like The Godfather, Jaws, Taxi Driver, Star Wars, Apocalypse Now and Conan the Barbarian. And Milius' key contribution came from his refusal to play it safe.