Review: Blue Thunder (1983)

Blue Thunder (1983)

Directed by: John Badham | 105 minutes | action, crime | Actors: Roy Scheider, Warren Oates, Candy Clark, Daniel Stern, Paul Roebling, David Sheiner, Joe Santos, Malcolm McDowell, Ed Bernard, Jason Bernard, Mario Machado, James Murtaugh, Pat McNamara, Jack Murdock, Clifford A. Pellow, Paul Lambert

‘Blue Thunder’ is the name of the state-of-the-art high-tech helicopter that was developed for the police. The thing just can’t bake apple pie, but the possibilities are endless. Police can use it for surveillance, but not just visually. For example, because the helicopter has the ‘whisper mode’, citizens do not hear when it is hovering over the building where they are located. In addition, it is equipped with listening devices, a computer, a modem and infrared cameras. The film ‘Blue Thunder’ (1983) therefore begins with an announcement that all equipment used in this film actually exists and is used in the United States. That was pretty progressive in the 1980s.

Roy Scheider plays Vietnam veteran Frank Murphy, a police pilot with the LAPD, who suffers from PTSD. He is assigned a younger partner Richard Lymangood (Daniel Stern) at the beginning of the film. On that night they witness – from the air – the brutal attack on Diana McNeely, a prominent member of the city council. Not much later she dies of her injuries. Immediately Murphy has the idea that there is more to it than a normal robbery murder and goes to investigate.

Then he is asked to test a prototype of the Blue Thunder. Reportedly, the helicopter’s deployment is intended to control the public during the upcoming 1984 Olympics. The project’s leader is Murphy’s nemesis Colonel FE Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), whom he remembers from his work in Vietnam.

What follows is a somewhat predictable, yet highly entertaining adventure in which we empathize with Murphy as he learns that not only was his first hunch correct, but there is a whole conspiracy that he can unmask, with the help of the Blue Thunder. Illegal of course, because we know how it goes with police officers who conduct investigations on their own, against the wishes of their superiors.

‘Blue Thunder’ is a solid action/crime film, with a good screenplay and excellent acting. The film is at times exciting and continuously entertaining. Every now and then intelligent things are told about the abuse of power by government agencies, but because the good and evil are really black and white here, the subtlety is hard to find. Nevertheless, you don’t have to skip this film, especially if you like the eighties atmosphere.

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