Operation Rolling Thunder was an almost four year bombing campaign by the United States that killed hundreds of thousands of people, rendered parts of Vietnam uninhabitable, and scattered unexploded ordinance across the country. It was probably a war crime.
John Flynn’s 1977 neo-noir– scripted by Paul Schrader– presumably takes its title from that long series of events. Its protagonist, Maj. Charles Rane (William Devane) is an Air Force pilot who was a POW for 7 years and has returned home to San Antonio, Texas. He was tortured during his captivity, his wife wants to divorce him so she can remarry one of their old friends, and his son has no idea who he is. The relative equanimity with which he responds to these developments initially seems admirable, but it soon becomes apparent that part of him is missing. As he works to adjust to his new situation he is maimed and his family is killed during a home invasion. It’s pretty clear where things are headed.
There’s so much to recommend this movie, but of particular note is an impressive performance of Linda Haynes who brings a carefully calibrated sense of authenticity to her role as Linda Forchet.