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A Man and His Stolen MiG

May 21st, 2010 · 4 Comments

Firefox 1982 poster Firefox 1982 German poster

Firefox (1982)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Alex Lasker & Wendell Wellman, based on the novel by Craig Thomas
Produced by Clint Eastwood
136 minutes

Arriving with fanfare in June 1982 and introducing Clint Eastwood to a generation of mallrats — who were either too young to get into R-rated movies or too busy pumping quarters into Q*bert to care — Firefox didn’t work then and today figures onto my list of the five biggest clunkers the screen icon ever made. Based on a novel that allegedly came to Eastwood by way of a helicopter pilot he contracted for aerial photography, it’s the exactly the type of high tech cloak and dagger business your barber might recommend. International thrillers like these can be compelling when written by Frederick Forsyth or Tom Clancy, but for starters, Craig Thomas is not in that literary weight class. His source material — as well as the adaptation and direction of the movie version — are cheaper and lazier than they have any excuse to be.

Whether or not it was conceived as Clint Eastwood’s response to the special effects extravaganzas of Lucas or Spielberg, Firefox manages one interesting conceit in a Russian Jewish underground and finds one fun moment, when Eastwood finally pilots the top secret fighter jet into the wild blue yonder. Nothing else elicits much more than a yawn. Visual effects producer John Dykstra held up his end adequately, but Eastwood’s explosiveness as an actor seems poorly suited to the spy genre or to acting in front of a blue screen. Blue Thunder — which followed Firefox into theaters by one year and would have been a classic with Clint in the lead role instead of Roy Schneider — infused excitement and an edge to a very similar storyline. Here, even composer Maurice Jarre turns in work that crashes on the test pad.

31 Days of Eastwood

Somewhere in Alaska, U.S. Air Force major Mitchell Gant (Clint Eastwood) has his solitary jog interrupted when a young captain (David Huffman) descends on Gant and compels him to come out of retirement to pilot an experimental Mach 5 fighter jet not only invisible to radar, but equipped with a mind controlled weapons system. Known as Firefox, the jet is parked in a Soviet hangar in Bilyarsk. Fluent in Russian, Gant’s mission would be to infiltrate the base with the help of a dissident group and steal the aircraft. Traumatized by events in Vietnam — where Gant was shot down, captured and witnessed the death of a child in a napalm strike — and prone to panic attacks, he remains NATO’s best option for preventing the Cold War from tipping in favor of the Soviets.

In London, British intelligence expert Kenneth Aubrey (Freddie Jones) disguises Gant and issues him the identity of an American businessman trafficking heroin out of Russia. Proving a poor field operative, Gant bumbles into KGB checkpoints until being provoked into killing an agent in a train station restroom. His contact (Warren Clarke) manages to get Gant on the road to Bilyarsk, where the engineers who built Firefox (Nigel Hawthorne, Ronald Lacey, Dimitra Arliss) have suffered enough persecution from the KGB over their Jewish faith to sacrifice their lives to help Gant. Once in the air, Gant heads for a U.S. submarine on an ice pack in the Arctic Circle to refuel, but finds himself pursued by a prototype Firefox piloted by his Soviet counterpart.

Firefox 1982 Clint Eastwood

Firefox 1982 Freddie Jones

Firefox 1982 Clint Eastwood

Firefox 1982 Clint Eastwood Warren Clarke

Firefox 1982

Firefox 1982 Clint Eastwood

Firefox 1982 Clint Eastwood

Firefox 1982 Stefan Schnabel

Firefox 1982

Firefox 1982

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 12 users: 42% for Firefox

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available

What do you say?

Tags: Based on novel · Dreams and visions · Heist · Interrogation · Man vs. machine · Military · No opening credits · Train

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Moviezzz // May 21, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I saw this I don’t know how many times on VHS and cable when it first came out. But, I don’t think I’ve seen it since 1985.

    I do have to argue that Roy Scheider is a better choice for BLUE THUNDER. I don’t think Eastwood would have worked in that film.

  • 2 J.D. // May 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Yeah, I don’t remember this film being all that special but I do remember really enjoying the video game and playing it often in arcades. If memory serves, it might have been one of those rare laser disc games.

  • 3 Yojimbo_5 // May 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Yeah, this one is terrible–my biggest laugh was having it thought-controlled…but you have to think in Russian. Nyet.

  • 4 Joe Valdez // May 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Jim: I haven’t watched Blue Thunder in forever and an age, so maybe I’m not giving Roy Schneider enough credit, but I think Clint could have done something as a washout who turns his simmering rage loose on the bad guys with the help of a super helicopter. Either way it’s much more compelling than Firefox. Thanks for commenting!

    J.D.: Weren’t the arcade games that used discs animated like Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace? I can’t recall a Firefox game that was anything other than a piece of shit for the Atari 2600, like E.T. I can’t imagine it being more enjoyable than Tron. Thanks for commenting!

    Jim: I love how instead of the Jewish physicists smuggling the Firefox specs out of Russia, it’s easier to send a retired American pilot suffering panic attacks over to just steal the plane. I guess if he’s Clint Eastwood, you greenlight that plan. Thanks for commenting!

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