The 80’s had some quality military hardware in several action movies; two featured state of the art aircraft. One being a helicopter the other being a plane – the movies? Blue Thunder starring Roy Sheider and Firefox starring Clint Eastwood. So I thought today I would compare the two to see which is the better action flick so strap on your seatbelt and prepare for lift off.
Blue Thunder (1983)
Roy Sheider was always one of my favourite actors; he could play an everyman with ease and he never seemed like he was acting. He just WAS the character he played and you believed every word he said. In Blue Thunder he plays Frank Murphy, a courageous and honourable Los Angeles police officer who is chosen to test run Blue Thunder, a high-tech experimental attack helicopter. While flying Blue Thunder, Murphy and his partner discover that the government intends to use the helicopter for corrupt crowd control and surveillance.
Although it takes a little while for the action to kick in Blue Thunder lets us get to know the characters of Officer Frank Murphy and his new partner Officer Richard Lymangood (a very young Daniel Stern) so we care what happens to them and understand what kind of people they are and the type of job they have to do. It involved policing LA from the sky while also spying on naked women doing yoga… I would like this job.
I never noticed before what an influence this movie must have been to the writers of RoboCop; first of all protagonist is called Murphy but also the news anchor is played by the same guy in the RoboCop movies.
Malcolm McDowell plays the wonderfully smug Cochrane who formerly served with Frank in Vietnam but they had a major falling out which was never resolved so this makes Cochrane our antagonist. So not only does Frank have to deal with him but he is also suffering from PTSD from his time in Nam. He is generally just a mess also struggling to keep his relationship going with his (very understanding) lady.
The story moves along well and is structured so everything makes sense and we understand why Frank ends up stealing this million dollar killing machine while totally rooting for him. No matter how slow it may be in the first half it more than makes up for it in the second with some of the best aerial photography you’ll ever see in an action flick. It’s Cochrane vs. Frank as they fly through the city shooting at each other and blowing up any buildings which get in the way giving us some truly spectacular action scenes.
Because it’s all done practically the action still holds up and has some amazing stunt work too so after all these years I consider Blue Thunder a bit of an underrated classic. Check you later!
A year before Blue Thunder Clint Eastwood took to the skies in Firefox which is a revolutionary new jet fighter built by the Soviets. The British are worried that the jet will be used as a first-strike weapon, as rumours say that the jet is undetectable on radar. They send ex-Vietnam War pilot Mitchell Gant (Eastwood) on a covert mission into the Soviet Union to steal Firefox.
It sounds like Firefox is going to be filled with some amazing action scenes and with Clint Eastwood starring then it will be badass… nope. It’s actually incredibly boring and a real slog to get through. The first half is more espionage driven but even then it isn’t even particularly tense. It’s not without its moments but it really is quite dull. When he finally does steal the plane the flying sequences are done using very dated looking special effects so it’s nowhere near as thrilling as the action in Blue Thunder.
The two characters Gant and Murphy from Blue Thunder are quite similar with both men suffering from PTSD and it kicks in at really inopportune times. Although once again Murphy is a far more interesting character than Gant I liked that Eastwood is playing a character out of his depth and is anything but an invincible badass.
It’s a bit of a who’s who of Brit actors from the time too with Nigel Hawthorne, Warren Clarke and many more in the cast including two of the main bad guys from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Firefox hasn’t held up well at all and despite Clint Eastwood being awesome even he can’t elevate the movie from being rather tedious with little that would appeal to modern audiences.
I never thought I would pick something other than a Clint Eastwood movie however, for me the decision is easy with Blue Thunder the better film in every way.