“Afterburn” is a television movie based on a true story. The movie stars Oscar winner Laura Dern (Marriage Story). She portrays Janet Harduvel, wife of Air Force, F-16 fighter pilot Captain Ted Harduvel (Vincent Spano).The couple are raising a child, their daughter Kiki (Casey Friel). A short while into the movie, Captain Harduvel is sent to South Korea, much to Janet’s disappointment. (As an aside: Dern won a Golden Globe for her work on Afterburn).
While on a training maneuver, Ted crashes his plane and dies. The accident is ruled his error, but Janet can’t believe a pilot of Ted’s superior skill level would make the sort of mistake he’s accused of. She seeks more information from both the Air Force and General Dynamics, the company which makes the F-16, but she is unsatisfied with the responses she receives. Ted’s pilot friends, such as Casey ‘Z’ Zankowski played by Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), implore Janet to drop the issue, but she’s steadfast when it comes to wanting to clear Ted’s name.
Janet seeks legal representation. She finds a lawyer, Leo Morrone, who specializes in aeronautics law. The part is played by Oscar nominee Robert Loggia (Jagged Edge). Morrone is hesitant at first to take on the case. He has successfully sued commercial airlines, but never a company associated with the military.
Further aiding Janet, in her efforts, is her sister Mary (Welker White). She also has help from an unlikely source, Dr. Carl Haller (Andy Romano), a career Air Force service member. Janet’s attempt to have the accident ruled a mechanical error is an arduous one. She encounters resistance with every move she makes. Collecting evidence and proving it in court will also be difficult. Representing General Dynamics is talented lawyer, Acton Ryder portrayed by Emmy winner and two time Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins (Olive Kitteridge).
Will Janet be able to clear Ted’s name? Was Captain Harduvel’s accident his fault? Did he die because of mechanical failure? All of those questions will be answered by the movie’s conclusion.
“Afterburn” was directed by Emmy nominee Robert Markowitz (Decoration Day). The teleplay was written by Elizabeth Chandler (The Red Tent). The movie premiered on HBO on May 30, 1992. The drama is 103 minutes in length.
The cast for the movie were uniformly excellent with Dern, Loggia, and Jenkins being the standouts. I had known about the movie for a long time, it used to be on HBO often. Up until recently I had only seen portions of it, but never from the beginning. The subject matter of the story held my interest from start to finish.