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‘…literally a fun vehicle for a huge box-office star…’

Long before Space Cowboys or Sully, Clint Eastwood was flexing his flying and cinematic muscles with this high-tech thriller with a bent, not for web-browsing but for aviation; a potential franchise starter, Firefox was an expensive film and wasn’t popular enough to merit sequels, but it’s a literally a fun vehicle for a huge box-office star that got him away from his ongoing 80’s obsessions with jazz, Sondra Locke and orangutans giving us the finger before driving off laughing in their Trans-Ams. We should never let a legend like Eastwood forget that at the height of his creative powers and studio clout, he made not one but two cheeky boxing-monkey Every Which Way But Loose movies.

There’s no such monkey business here; the Cold War is in full swing, and Russian-speaking Vietnam vet Mitchell Gant (Eastwood) is recruited to infiltrate Soviet Russia and return in the cockpit of the Firefox, an adapted MIG-31 so high-tech it actually responds to the thoughts of the pilot, just like Googlemail does today. The first half of the film takes its sweet time to come to the boil, with a lot of Clint standing around in public toilets looking pensive and waiting to speak to a selection of top Brit character actors, including Nigel Hawthorne, Freddie Jones, Ronald Lacey and Warren Clarke. Eastwood directs too, and makes good use of Viennese locations standing in for Russia.

But vintage thesps and locations don’t sell tickets, and things jump up a welcome notch or two when Gant finally gets his hands on the plane and the Russians fire up a second prototype to pursue him, it’s all action fare; even if the projection work isn’t quite to modern standards, it’s fairly amazing for 1982. Star Wars wizz-boffin John Dykstra developed his own reverse blue-screen photography for this film, and while the matte lines are sometimes a distraction, there’s a scattering of stunningly crisp-looking shots in an Empire Strikes Back mode as Gant flies the Firefox to safety, ends the Cold War and everyone is pleased. Even the 1983 Atari video game looks pretty cool, or at least cooler than the Dirty Harry platform game.

Adapted from Craig Thomas’s 1977 novel, which was pretty much ahead of the game when it came to high-tech concepts, Firefox is still fun to watch despite being somewhat overlong, even just as a record of Eastwood learning his trade as director. With another go-round in mind, Thomas did write a sequel, Firefox Down, but Eastwood and audiences had moved on, yet the still-current brand-name and the concept are surely still good for a today’s-tech adaptation today, and the parallel lines of water-waves that the Firefox leaves in its wake when flying low are still a mint, show-stopping visual. Reboot, please!


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  1. Kind of missed the mark, too talky by far, but still a good actioner in the end as I recall. I liked that Eastwood just went to work and wasn’t always waiting for exactly the right script to fall on his lap.

  2. Thinking about it Eastwood must be neary due to die. There’ll be all sorts of TV tributes and documetaries and Movie seasons. Just a thought.

    • But he’ll leave behind probably the most substantial body of work of any film-maker. 70 years of it…

  3. I’ve actually seen, and enjoyed this. Of course, it probably helped that it was right after it came out on vhs. Our extended family used to get together for Thanksgivings and on Fridays, the woman would go shopping on Black Friday (back when it still actually meant something) and so us guys were left holding down the fort. My uncle rented this and we all sat down and watched it. I remember it because it was the first time I was included as “one of the men”. When you’re 10, that makes you feel big 😀

    I mainly remember him puking in the bathroom because of nerves. It just struck me as odd at the time why they’d include something like that.

  4. A reboot yes, but with more action and less talky talky, no one needs all that build up. We know he’s going to get the plane so crack on. Also a better looking plane should be possible these days, and a pilot who doesn’t forget he’s got a rear facing rocket to fire. Get Tom Cruise on it, he knows how to do a flying movie.

  5. I miss the writing that went into trailers in the ’80s. “Mitchell Gant, the most daring U.S. fighter pilot ever to fly a plane.” That’s gold.

    • They don’t make them like this anymore! Bring back 1982 trailers! He speaks Russian too, what a guy!

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