F is for Firefox (1982)

When the Russians create Firefox, a prototype jet that’s invisible to radar and can be commanded by the pilot’s mind, the West send pilot Mitchell Gant (Clint Eastwood) to the Soviet Union to steal it.

The plot to get Gant into Moscow is convoluted and the plot moves from him to the Russian high command to back to mission control in the West and none of it’s particularly interesting. Or when it does have the potential to be interesting it moves from that group of characters to another suddenly. Some scenes seem too long and just fizzle out while others don’t have enough context to be worthwhile.

As well as the KGB being a threat to him, Gant also has PTSD and panic attacks that can make him freeze up. The way these panic attacks are shot is kind of interesting with the sound and camera movement as well as overlapping scenes of the incident that gave Gant this trauma. It was kind of nice that while other characters including Gant’s superiors knew of his mental health issues they aren’t really talked about negatively and he manages to deal with them to the best of his ability.

Firefox is one of those 80s films that’s almost futuristic. While it’s definitely set in the 80s with the Cold War paranoia, the fact that the jet can fire missiles and pick out targets with just the thought of the pilot is a kind of sci-fi twist. It feels very 80s that they thought that technology could even progress to that point.

One thing that amused/annoyed me was that one of the reasons Gant got chosen for this mission was that he’s fluent in Russian, but whenever he talked to a Russian when he was pretending to be Russian, he still talked in English and didn’t even put on a (potentially awful) Russian accent. It made sense for him to talk with his own American accent when he was pretending to be an American tourist but when he was infiltrating the base as a supposed Russian it just felt really wrong.

Firefox ticks a lot of the standard Cold War thriller trope boxes but it doesn’t do anything to make it stand out from other films in the genre. The first half of the film is often boring and in the second half, while naturally the fighter plane sequences look dated now and though it becomes a bit long there are some sparks of potential excitement in them. It’s like the film tried to be two things at once; serious Cold War thriller and fun sci-fi action film. The two tones don’t really mesh together.

On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing Freddie Jones in this. He played Aubrey, one of the British Intelligence officers involved with the mission. It was another instance of seeing an actor almost 40 years younger than I’ve ever seen him before as until fairly recently he was a regular on the British soap Emmerdale which I grew up watching.

Firefox is Clint Eastwood’s eighth film as a director so while you could blame some of the film’s shortcomings on it being an early film of his, Eastwood had directed Play Misty for Me and The Outlaw Josey Wales by then which are both great. Maybe this is an instance where a director can only do so much with a dull screenplay overstuffed with exposition. 2/5.

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