Firefox (1982)

I’m not a fan of remakes, but if there was one that I would get behind, it would be Firefox.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, this was one of the first grown-up movies I got to see on my own. For that there will always be a happy memory of this movie in my head, I even own it on blu-ray.

Adapted from the novel by Craig Thomas, who had written a series of techno-thrillers, Firefox tells the tale of Mitchell Gant (Eastwood), a pilot haunted by his time in Vietnam, and hiding from civilization in Alaska.

When the Russians develop a new plane, the Mig-31, a devastating war plane that has weapons that can be fired by thought, Mitchell is recruited by the government and a plan is put into place to get him into Russia, onto the base, and steal it out from under them.

Sounds pretty good right?

The film feels a little front-heavy, and moves rather slowly as Mitchell travels, undercover and in disguise, to the Soviet Union, aided by a network of spies and scientists, all the while his minders in the States and the UK work to outmaneuver the Soviet government who are beginning to suspect that something is up. It’s not enough to dissuade me from watching it over and over, I’m just warning you not to go in expecting a fast-moving story, this one starts out kind of slow, playing a fairly realistic spy game, and doesn’t really kick into high-gear until Gant is stealing the plane.

The pacing and editing of the first hour makes the film seem over-long, and even as a kid it seemed like it took way too long for Gant to get into the secret base, and eventually steal the Firefox.

In fact, even as an adult, all I wanted to see from the film is the cat-and-mouse chase Gant leads the Russian forces across the continent and over the Arctic.

The model-work is sweet, and the design of the Firefox is pretty awesome. However, not all of it works, nor does it all stand up, matte lines are easily apparent as the plane, and it’s predecessor chase one another across half the globe.

I do like the rear-projection work on the film through the windows of the plane, and the reflection in Gant’s helmet, that, to me, makes the flying sequences a little more believable.

I would love to see an updated take on this, with cutting edge special effects, a tight spy thriller with a healthy dose of aerial action thrown in!

The plane is still wickedly iconic and Eastwood is awesome as always… And while this film holds a wonderful sense of independence for me personally (me and my friend Shawn when to see this by ourselves at the Capitol Theater), it may not necessarily be his strongest or even his best film.

Which leads to my question for you, barring the Dirty Harry films, or any of Eastwood’s westerns… what are some of your favorite films with Cllint?

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Good Morning, Mr. Hunt

Good morning, Mr. Hunt… You’re mission should you choose to accept it…

I settled down to watch my copies of the Mission: Impossible films this weekend, and I will say this, this is a film series that undeniably gets better as they go along. Though if I was chosen to rank them, I think I would go Ghost Protocol, III, I and II.

It’s through these films though that one can separate the art from the artist, and can admit that Tom Cruise is a consummate performer in these films. He does as many of the physical stunts as he can, and those moments inevitably end up on screen. The mountain climbing sequence in II, the exploding aquarium restaurant in I, the building climb in Protocol. The man does like to push his own limits.

Then there’s the directors, Brian DePalma who directed Carrie, and The Untouchables, John Woo, who helmed Hard Boiled and Face/Off, first time director J.J. Abrams who went on to give us the Star Trek reboot and Super 8, and Brad Bird’s first live action film after showing he could make an actioner with The Incredibles.

The first film, under DePalma established the universe, reintroduced us to updated versions of the tech which Bruce Geller’s original show, and the remake introduced us to. Of the four films, this one could be most able to define as a spy thriller. Ethan must unearth a mole within the IMF and clear the names of himself and his dead team members, working outside of the IMF as he has been disavowed. Yes, there are is an action sequence, the train/chopper fight at the end of the film, but the rest of it plays as a thriller, using misdirection and deception to keep the story rolling. Of course it does have the tightly paced breaking into the CIA to steal the NOC list sequence.

I know that when I originally saw it I was a little upset that it wasn’t more of an action film, but it really has grown on me, and has a great cast featuring Jean Reno, Emmanuelle Beart, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Henry Czerny.

It featured a script and story by David Koepp, Steven Zaillian and Robert Towne.

When I head John Woo was taking over the director’s chair for II, I knew exactly what I was getting, choreographed gun battles, sweet stunts, and the loosest of all the Mission: Impossible stories. Ethan must work to recover a super-virus and its cure before an ex-agent can sell it to the highest bidder.

But that’s ok, it’s set against the backdrop of Australia, and has some fun action sequences, and I love the opening climbing sequence. There’s the infiltration off Biocyte and the ensuing gun battle, the fight on Bare Island followed by the moving battle on motorcycles, culminating in the duel on the beach.

It has a pounding score by Hans Zimmer, and a screenplay by Brannon Braga Ronald D. Moore, and Robert Towne.

This time out the film featured Dougray Scott as the baddie, the sexy Thandie Newton as the love interest, Brendan Gleeson and Anthony Hopkins.

Then the films took a rest, but came back bigger and better, actually molding the film series into a stronger reflection of the tv series, and one of the concepts of the first movie… that Ethan Hunt may be the leader, but he’s a member of a team.

This time first time director J.J. Abrams was taking over the center seat, but before that he’d already brought us Lost, and the spy series Alias.

With J.J. and Cruise, the cast seemed to get bigger and better.

This time out, Ethan, who is now an instructor is brought back into the field to rescue one of his trainees and unearths a huge weapons deal, including a device referred to by one of the techs, Benji as an anti-god.

Following along with J.J.. Abrams is his seemingly personal composer, Michael Giacchino as well as his writing partners Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

The story is much more epic in scope, this time spilling over into Ethan’s personal life and his impending nuptials.

Joining Cruise onscreen are Maggie Q, Keri Russell, Billy Crudup, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, and menacing the IMF this time around, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This film sees the film breaking into the Vatican, a helicopter chase, battling drones and soldiers on a bridge in the Keys, an infiltration and parachute escape in Shanghai as well as tense face-offs between Cruise’s Hunt and Hoffman’s Davian.

This one climbed right into position of my favorite and best of the series as soon as I saw it. Abrams first film knocked it out of the park as far as I was concerned. And it saw Ethan working in a team format, something that the original show was always all about – each member has their specialty, and they can’t pull it off unless they solve it together.

With the success of three, there was no doubt that a fourth wouldn’t be too far off…

And Ghost Protocol came along with Abrams took a back seat to directing, settling into the role of producer, Brad Bird, who brought us Iron Giant in addition to The Incredibles settled in to make his first live action film… and it kicks ass!

Giacchino returns in the music department as Ethan and his team seek to stop a madman from starting a nuclear war with stolen Russian launch codes in a story penned by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

Bird handles the film deftly, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. He oversees Hunt’s ascent on the outside of the world’s tallest building, the sandstorm chase, a prison escape, a break-in of the Kremlin – with some great tech, and a climactic fight in an automated car park.

This time, the Impossible casting continues it’s awesome run as Pegg returns, and is joined by Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist and Tom Wilkinson.

There’s definitely a sense of handing over the reins to Renner and his fellows by the end of the film, so one wonders if Cruise will make another one.

Of course Renner is quickly becoming a very busy man, he’s got a recurring role in the Marvel Universe movies as Hawkeye, and is taking over the Bourne films from Matt Damon, so one wonders if the M:I films will continue now or not.

I certainly hope so, they are a lot of fun so far, and I’d be very curious what director, writers and stars will be involved in the next film.

Do you need to see all the films to appreciate the most recent effort? No, but there are little pay-offs, you get to enjoy the world that’s been created by the series, and you get to see four amazing directors giving their take on this techno-spy action series. It’s easy to write them off as summer blockbusters, but the series really is a solid collection of entertaining films.

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