Ex Nam fighter pilot Mitchell Gant is sent on an indercover mission to Moscow to steal the Russian's new thought-controlled MIG fighter and bring it back to the land of the free.
What was up with Clint Eastwood in the eighties? As his gruff Dirty Harry persona waned with age, he seemed willing, almost eager, to besmirch his reputation with ludicrous high concept pap typically involving apes. But even those orang-utan comedies have a semblance of credibility compared to this video-game primer, lurid with a right-wing propaganda that wouldn’t have been out of place in the McCarthy era. And Eastwood even directed this one. Shame on you, Clint.
Made as the Cold War seemed so chilly it would never thaw, and based on Craig Thomas’ Tom Clancy-esque techno thriller, the implication that the Ruskies have developed a weapon that could blow heartland American clean out of their beds without warning, certainly held a superficial trepidation. Of course, the one man, now John Wayne was pushing up daisies, who could save them was going to be granite-faced Clint Eastwood.
Half of his film, baring hints of the austere, moody style he would put to great use in later career, is a form of espionage thriller as he goes undercover, disguised with moustache and horn-rimmed glasses into the commie heartland (stand-in: Austria) to steal the Firefox (he can after all “think” in Russian and thus steer the jet to safety). Grittiness, however intelligently meant, doesn’t fit the quasi-sci-fi trappings of the novel at all. There was never anyway to make the film feel real, so why not revel in its absurdity?
Yet the film methodically lurches through a series of dry undercover manoeuvres as Grant plots his way through a swathe of secret agents, including his brash CIA brothers and the scurrilous KGB on his trail. When he finally clambers into the hi-tech cockpit, after what seems an age of that grungy looking clandestine stuff, the film should rev up into an action packed finale. Time has not told well on the tin-pot effects used to simulate flying at Mach 6 (4,500 mph) and the chase between the twin Firefoxes, with their dim modernistic styling like a Lamborghini crossed with a nuke, are fake enough to be laughable. A clunky symbol of a film that should be confined to history.
An unbelievably long film for so little pay-off. More cowboys, please.