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on April 13, 2013
Clint Eastwood is well known for his western style movies,as well as some other later on in his career, but this one
stands out because he portrays a American pilot (Mitchell Gant) that sneaks behind Soviet border to carry out a dangerous
mission. That mission is the hijacking of the latest MIG-31 stealth fighter, one that the Americans want to examine, and
Gant barely escapes the clutches of the KGB, only because he is able to speak Russian. He befriends a couple of scientists on the advanced fighter project that have past issues with the Soviet regime.

Gant manages to commandeer one of the two Mig-31 prototypes and just gets airborne before the real test pilot gets into the second prototype to chase him in an arial dogfight. The dogfight sequence is basically similar to Top Gun, and Gant barely escapes intact from that to land and refuel on the frozen Artic icepack, (serviced by an American submarine). as the Russians catch up with them. (The arial dogfight sequence was the basis of a commercial video game a few years ago),
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When this movie came out in the early 80's, most of us kids didn't like it. We wanted more high-flying action and explosions. With the benefit of a few years and hindsight, Firefox is an adequate, moody cold war-era drama with just enough Top Gun action at the end. I read the novel first, on which the movie was based, and loved it even though my 10 year old self didn't know what a "cold war" was.

Here's your basic plot. The Brits have discovered that the Soviets have successfully developed a jet plane that is invisible to radar; in effect a stealth fighter (although that term isn't used in the film). In addition, they have learned about one more grim technological advance. The weapons systems of this plane, the Mig-31 code-named "Firefox", are completely brain activated. Think it, and the Firefox will fire it. This will give the pilot an edge over any conventional plane, split seconds needed in air combat.

Mitchell Gant (Eastwood) is a Vietnam vet who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, giving him uncontrolled non-epileptic seizures in times of stress, or if he experiences sensations that remind him of the carnage he witnessed. He, however, can fly the plane and speak perfect Russian. He is the only choice the Americans have. Choice for what? Simple really. The way to keep the Russians from having this advantage is to steal a plane and reverse engineer it.

Roughly half in the film is espionage -- Gant making contact in Russia, assuming identities, escaping the KGB. The second half is 80's-quality air combat action. Aside from some matte lines and over-lit models, these scenes are pretty cool as the Firefox skims the snowy Ural mountains.

While Firefox is a slow moving film, with some poor Russian accents, I found it to be an interesting and intriguing movie. It won't go down as Eastwood's best or most exciting, but for cold war-era drama, this is tops.

4 stars

Note -- look for a couple supporting actors you may recognize from some big Lucas films!
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on February 27, 2004
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.
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on January 7, 2004
FIREFOX is one of those films made back when the U.S.S.R. still existed, and espionage is the key here. Clint Eastwood plays Mitchell Gant, a retired Air Force pilot who is resurrected to steal the FIREFOX fighter jet from Russia. Based on a novel by the same name, FIREFOX certainly looks like an interesting movie, and it is to some extent. It has a little James Bond flavor in it too. It is not great, however, and has many flaws.
Eastwood constantly changes deguise throughout the film as his allies seek to get him to the jet. The process is long and confusing, and the whole time Clint doesn't look like he has any idea what he is doing. Once he grabs the jet itself, and pulls out of the hanger, night suddenly changes to day! The special effects during the flying sequences are exciting. John Dykstra, who won an oscar for the special effects in STAR WARS, did the job on the effects here and the results are impressive, even though they look dated. The movie does drag, however, when the U.S.S.R. intellegence constantly is trying to figure out which direction he is headed. The worst thing about this film is the ending. After winning a dramatic dogfight with the other FIREFOX, the movie ends right there in the sky. It would have been interesting if Eastwood could have entended it a little more to at least see him land the plane in his home country. This was Eastwood's eighth time as a director as well. The movie is interesting, but the minor flaws, and flat ending are what kind of hold it back from being great. FIREFOX wass a good movie, but it could have been better, alot better.
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on September 6, 2003
Directing and starring in this classic spy thriller from the eighties is Clint Eastwood, more generally known as the gruff "Man With No Name" in several spaghetti westerns and American westerns of his own direction. In "FireFox," Eastwood takes on a more modern and quite different role for himself, playing a former Air Force pilot who is still suffering from some rather horrific personal demons. In the genre of spy/thriller films, Eastwood's name comes to the top in this classic that is arguably one of the best! Although the pacing of this film is slightly off, I believe that to be intentional and it adds to the suspense that is inherent to the plot and a sure sign of skill on the director's part.
The premise:
Clint Eastwood plays former Air Force pilot Mitchell Gant who was shot down over Viet Nam and captured. The American and British governments have learned of a new Soviet fighter plane that will ultimately tip the scales of balance to the hand of the Soviets and decide to steal the plane with the help of the Russian Jews who have been forced to design and build it. Given Gant's heritage, a Russian mother who taught him the language and the necessity of being able to speak Russian, the American government calls him back into service.
What follows from there is an extraordinarily intriguing and suspenseful plot that compels the viewer through the story as we see Gant make his way into the Soviet Union and on his way to the airbase in which he must infiltrate and steal this ultimate weapon of war. Of particular note is how well the characterizations of the Russians were played out and believable. I've never been to Russia and I don't pretend to know how things were there during the cold war and pre-glasnost but through Eastwood's direction and the actors efforts, they quite easily bring about a "suspension of disbelief" in the story.
One minor "gripe" would be in the beginning of the movie when Gant is going through a flashback and they show him flying an F-4 Phantom and then an F-105 Thud and then roll back to the Phantom, two very distinct and different aircraft. Simply because they both had the same camouflage scheme does not mean they're the same planes and directors "should" pay closer attention to these details. While this was a minor distraction for myself, it in no way detracts from the films overall plot.
Overall, "FireFox" is worth every penny and I highly recommend this DVD as an honored addition to your DVD collection! {ssintrepid}
Special Features:
- Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 - The sound quality for this classic is perfect!
- Making of Documentary: Clint Eastwood: Director - This is an excellent addition to the DVD with an interview from around the time of release "FireFox," covering more than just this film.
- Eastwood Film Highlights
- Theatrical Trailer
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on June 12, 2003
In 1982, while the Cold War was yet raging between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Clint Eastwood directed and starred in an exciting action film about espionage called "Firefox". Clint Eastwood plays Major Mitchell Gant, a retired pilot from the U.S. Air Force who suffers from delayed psychological stress disorder from when he fought in the Vietnam War. Being the only pilot qualified to fly Soviet Air Force jets who is also fluent in Russian, SIS agent Kenneth Aubrey (Freddie Jones) has U.S. AF pilot Capt. Arthur Buckholz (David Huffman) recruit Gant to be the primary operative in a U.S.-sponsored espionage mission. The goal is to steal a technologically superior, top-secret prototype jet fighter that is code-named Firefox out of the Soviet Union. Gant, of course, is not particularly interested, but returns to Washington with Capt. Buckholz. There he is given specific training that will enable him to enter the Soviet Union unnoticed. Once in the Soviet Union, Gant meets a Russian who works for the SIS, Pavel Upenskoy (Warren Clarke). The Soviet scientists who reluctantly developed the thought-controlled prototype fighter are a Jewish husband and wife team, Dr. Pyotr Baranovich (Nigel Hawthorne) and Natalia (Dimitra Arliss).
The film is fraught with tension, drama and excitement as Gant makes his way to infiltrate the Soviet AF base to steal the prototype fighter. Special effects used in the film were superb for the early 1980's, though some may regard them as being dated by today's standards. Other memorable characters in the film include Soviet General Vladimirov (Klaus Löwitsch), the Communist Party First Secretary (Stefan Schnabel) and Soviet AF pilot Lt. Col. Voskov (Kai Wulff).
The film is not perfect, but with a superb Cold War plot, good dialog, engaging characters and good special effects, I rate "Firefox" with 4 out of 5 stars. I am very happy that the film was released on DVD in widescreen format. Not everyone who watches the film will enjoy it, but technophiles, fans of sci-fi & action films and Clint Eastwood fans more than likely will.
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on June 7, 2003
Clint Eastwood hasn't done too many military or spy movies, and it was fun to seem him tackle the genre. Clint plays an ex-Air Force fighter pilot named Mitchell Gant who had some bad experiences in Vietnam and is enjoying his retirement on a ranch. He is recruited by a international espionage ring who already have a top-secret mission ready for him. He is to sneak into the Soviet Union and with the help of persecuted Russian Jews, steal the Soviet's newest and scariest fighter jet, the MIG-31, codenamed "Firefox". But the KGB is on his tail from minute one, only they don't know yet exactly why he is there. All heck breaks loose once they find out why, but it's too late. Gant is up in the air at the controls of the plane and it's telepathic weapons system. After a refueling stop on an ice sheet where an American sub is waiting for him, he takes off and has to contend with a Russian fighter ace flying the only other Firefox in existence. Will Mitchell Gant make it back to American soil? Watch the movie to find out!
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on May 10, 2003
Less a shoot 'em up than a Cold War spy thriller, "Firefox" is an earnest effort that nonetheless yields mixed results. On one hand, the premise and pacing are decidely adult--this is supposed to be a throwback to the better spy thrillers of the 60s, where the action is tempered by chess-like moves and countermoves rather than comic-book-style quick solutions. But like so many 80s films, "Firefox" sometimes compromises its vision, pandering to the lowest common denominator by offering cheesy, jingoistic lines and special effects sequences in place of further character or plot development. Eastwood is well cast as Mitchell Gant, a shell-shocked American pilot sent to steal a prototype Soviet plane that threatens to upset the arms balance. The longer--and more interesting--part of the movie concerns Gant's journey behind the Iron Curtain, as well as his meeting with dissidents prepared to help him. Here, "Firefox" functions well as a thriller, offering genuine suspense and pathos, especially for the team of scientists prepared to sacrifice their lives to see his mission succeed. The actual theft of the plane and subsequent cat-and-mouse aerial antics, however, seem rather one-note by comparison: there are too many repetitious moments in the cockpit and the various control centers, where people pour over maps and radar screens while looking pensive. The acting is generally fine, but the script seems to run out of things for everyone to do--after all, Gant's basically just piloting a plane while everyone is trying to figure out where he's going. Even the climactic fighter battle lacks a sense of genuine tension, partly because characterization drops out and partly because the outcome already seems decided by that point in the movie. Like "Ice Station Zebra," an earlier film with a similar sensibility and execution, the journey is more interesting than the destination.
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on February 7, 2003
Back in the 1980s, Americans couldn't care less about bearded Islamic militants in the backwoods of Afghanistan. Our big concern was the big, bad Soviet Union. Even though we were the most powerful country in the world by a large margin, we feared war and invasion (World War III, Red Dawn, Amerika), espionage (virtually every Bond film from the period), and annhiliation (The Day After, WarGames) at the hands of the U.S.S.R.
Firefox fits neatly into this us-versus-them thriller, with iconic American loner/tough-guy hero Clint Eastwood penetrating into the Soviet Union to steal the world's most advanced aircraft, which was invisible to radar and America's defenses. The movie had the potential to be a spectacular spy/action thriller, but the results are something of a mixed bag.
When I watched this film as a child, I was impressed by the seeming omnipresence of the KGB. It was creepy to think that people lived in a society where no one trusted anyone and any loose words could mean certain death. In retrospect, the portrayal of the KGB is somewhat cartoonish. Perhaps most laughable was when Eastwood was asked for "your papers, please" while taking a shower.
Another aspect of the film that seems somewhat dated is the highly propogandistic way in which the dissidents were portrayed. Several of Eastwood's helpers in the Soviet Union risked death by transporting him or giving him secret information, yet they seemed flippant, almost casual about their impending doom, as if being found out and killed by the KGB was just a normal, expected part of the plans. "Oh, don't worry about me," they would say in a dismissive tone, explaining that without the freedoms that Eastwood took for granted back in the West, life just wasn't worth living. While history is full of people giving their lives for freedom, the shallow way in which these characters faced their fates could be chalked up to either poor scriptwriting, shallow Cold War propaganda, or a bit of both.
A couple other criticisms. The dialogue is rather flat and the storyline is somewhat predictable. Eastwood's character remains elusive (one-dimensional?) and stoic (wooden?) throughout the movie. I don't want to criticize the special effects for the flying scenes, though, because they were considered top-notch at the time. Publicity made much of the Star Wars legacy of some of the special effects personnel.
In the end, what we have is something of a cartoonish spy-thriller that entrances starry-eyed children into the epic struggle between East and West, but feels more like a Cold War cops-and-robbers flick for more mature audiences.
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on July 20, 2001
What's so amazing is the insight and forward thinking that went into this film. Yes the first portion of the film is slow, but so is about 99% of espionage and air combat. I've said it before and I'll say it again: When Hollywood actually shows this stuff realistically, the audience gets bored or sleepy because they do not appreciate authenticity. Back to the insightfulness... Well, over here on the Nellis Test Range, and yes I'm specifically talking about Area 51, they fly very special "aggressor" squadrons that use actual Soviet aircraft. Guess where they got them. Some were defected and some...drum roll...were stolen with the help of U.S. clandestine services. Furthermore, information on U.S. stealth programs was not public when Firefox was made. A Russian scientist is actually the guy who developed the equations that predicted "low observability", and his government spent a while looking into the concept, though not until recently very seriously. The Russians also had a weird preoccupation with the paranormal, telekinesis, and, yes, biofeedback. These uncanny pseudo-recreations in Firefox, combined with the believable depiction of the closed nature of Soviet society and their "secret bases" where R&D took place makes for a sci-fi/spy film with an air of authenticity, in spite of its fictional traits. I also like the great repertoire between Gant and the Sub captain. It strikes me as being very true to life with its representation of automatic camaraderie and unspoken understanding between the two characters. I look forward to this film's release on DVD.
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