“Blue Thunder” is the name of a helicopter. This helicopter is a state-of-the-art high-tech helicopter developed for the police. The thing just can’t bake an apple pie, but otherwise, the possibilities are endless. The police can use it for surveillance, but not only visually. For example, because the helicopter has the “whisper mode”, citizens do not hear it when the thing is hanging above the building where they are. In addition, it is equipped with eavesdropping equipment, a computer, a modem, and infrared cameras. The film “Blue Thunder” (1983) therefore begins with a statement that all the equipment used in this film actually exists and is used in the United States. That was quite progressive in the eighties.
Roy Scheider plays Vietnam veteran Frank Murphy suffering from PTSD, a police pilot working at the LAPD. He is assigned a younger partner Richard Lymangood (Daniel Stern) at the start of the film. On that evening they witness – from the air – the brutal attack on Diana McNeely, a prominent member of the city council. Not much later she dies from her injuries. Immediately Murphy has the idea that there is more to it than a normal robbery and goes to investigate.
Then he is asked to test a prototype of the Blue Thunder. Allegedly helicopter deployment is intended to keep the public under control during the upcoming 1984 Olympics. The project leader is Murphy’s arch enemy Colonel F.E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), whom he still knows from his work in Vietnam.
What follows is a somewhat predictable, yet very entertaining adventure in which we sympathize with Murphy when he finds out that not only his first inspiration was correct, but that there is a very conspiracy that he can expose using the Blue Thunder. Illegal of course, because we know how the police are doing who are investigating on their own, against the wishes of the superiors.
“Blue Thunder” is an action and crime movie, with a good scenario and excellent acting performance. The film is sometimes exciting and continuously entertaining. Occasionally intelligent things are told about the abuse of power by government agencies, but because good and evil are really black and white here, subtlety is hard to find. Nevertheless, you don’t have to skip this film, especially if you like the 1980s atmosphere.