The Mystery of D. B. Cooper
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This well made and rather riveting documentary is an investigation into what is probably the greatest unsolved heist in American history. It’s definitely the only unsolved case of air piracy.
Even the undisputed facts here – quite apart from the various contesting claims and theories – are extraordinary enough. In 1971, a man called D.B. Cooper hijacked a plane out of Portland Oregon, and demanded $200,000, a money belt and four parachutes – one for him and the others apparently for the pilots. He subsequently parachuted out of the plane – and disappeared. No definite trace has ever been found of him, his body or what he took with him.
But that is very much just the beginning of a saga whose plot thickens exponentially as it goes on. For one thing, there are no fewer than four suspects presented here as the possibly ‘real’ Cooper, and relatives, friends or investigators in each case who are utterly convinced he survived and that they knew or identified him.
Through interviews, re-enactments and archival footage, a mass of evidence – circumstantial and otherwise – is presented, and it’s ultimately up to you, the viewer, to draw any conclusions. It’s certainly no longer up to the FBI, who eventually gave up and closed the case.
Was Cooper actually Robert (subsequently Barb) Dayton, the first man in Washington to have a sex change operation? Or perhaps Richard McCoy, the Vietnam veteran who perpetrated a ‘copycat’ skyjacking? You’ll enjoy trying to decide which one of the four it was, or perhaps whether the answer is ‘none of the above’.
There are aspects of the film which are strangely reminiscent of Twin Peaks [and some may recall a 1981 film by Roger Spottiswoode which starred Treat Williams as the purported D.B. Cooper], and not merely because of its location. But of course, this is non-fiction, and its ongoing fascination for swathes of the American public is itself psychologically interesting. Recommended.