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Retrospective Film Review: Blue Thunder

Sunday 17 November 2013
Words Spindle

After directing Saturday Night Fever in 1977, John Badham made a name for himself directing what are now widely regarded as 80s staples – WarGames, Short Circuit, Stakeout, and this, a shot of pure Saturday-night-at-the-movies nostalgic adrenaline.

Co-written by Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon, 1983’s Blue Thunder tells the story of Post Traumatic Stress Disordered cop Frank Murphy (Scheider), a maverick helicopter pilot who monitors his sanity by his stopwatch, and succeeds, as most maverick cops do, by alienating those around him. After being selected to test-fly a new attack chopper, (the Blue Thunder of the title) Murphy stumbles upon a political conspiracy and corruption involving the recent death of a local LA councilwoman.

Essentially an extended chase sequence, Blue Thunder features the kind of spectacular action and real-world effects now dwarfed by CGI and more comprehensive plotting, but it’s a ride nonetheless. Upon its release in 1983 Blue Thunder did remarkably well, even overtaking the mother of Step Up movies Flashdance at the number one Box Office spot.

It’s possible I’m biased – Blue Thunder is one of a handful of films that encapsulates my childhood – and upon re-watching, there isn’t really much substance to it, but the aerial sequences are charged and well edited and Scheider proves a winningly dry antihero. Additionally, the movie also features, in my opinion, one of the most atmospheric film posters of all time.

Words: Ash Verjee