23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
An adequate, unusual techno-thriller from Clint Eastwood,
This review is from: Firefox (DVD)
This was Clint Eastwood's second dip into the waters of the espionage thriller (the first was the awful "Eiger Sanction" back in 1975), and one of the few films he directed which relies heavily on visual effects. As a director, Eastwood seems uneasy with both modes, which go against the grain of his realistic, tough, and often stoic & silent directorial style. Nonetheless, "Firefox" works better than it should. Eastwood brings understated realism to what might have been a hopelessly hokey Cold War techno thriller, and the visual effects-laden last third is fairly exciting. However, the mixture of elements ultimately produces only an adequate film, a strange entry in Eastwood's long string of hits.
The plot is a Tom Clancy story before there were Tom Clancy stories (this is based on a novel by Craig Thomas). The Soviets (remember them?) have developed a super fighter jet, the Firefox, with thought-controlled weapons system. The Firefox threatens the balance of power in the Cold War, so NATO needs to get their hands on it, pronto. The only man who can do it is pilot Mitchell Gant (Eastwood). He speaks fluent Russian, can infiltrate the base with the help of Russian Jewish dissenters (played by Ronald Lacey, Nigel Hawthorne, and Warren Clarke), and has the skill to fly the Firefox. Only problem: Gant is highly unstable from his Vietnam experience, is prone is nasty flashbacks (a problem if you're flying a though- controlled plane!), and has done no undercover work before.
"Firefox" is overlong at 136 minutes, and tends to drag with far too many scenes of Russian and NATO boardroom arguments. The film works best in the early parts during the scenes with Lacey, Hawthorne, and Clarke, who all give fine, sentimental performances as double agents who know they are doomed but struggle on for what they know is right. In a few place, Eastwood shows traces of the later themes of the consequences of violence that would mature in "Unforgiven" and "Mystic River." Eastwood himself is fairly good in the role, avoiding any "Dirty Harry" clichés or relying too much on his tough guy image, but he does look rather silly in his undercover disguise scenes.
Nonetheless, it does seem to take forever until the last third, where the Firefox tries to blaze an almost hopeless escape trail out of the Soviet Union, with another Firefox prototype on its tail. The effects (by John Dysktra of "Star Wars" fame) are zippy and fantastic, but any human element left in the film pretty much bails out at this point. Enjoy the planes, enjoy the speed, enjoy Clint just staring out the window and not moving much. It's fairly exciting, but when it's all over, you'll feel a bit let down.
The DVD, like most Warner Bros. discs in the Clint Eastwood Collection, looks very good, and the sound is 5.1. But also like most Warner Bros. discs in the Clint Eastwood Collection, there are no extras.