Film / Cloak & Dagger

Not to be confused with the trope Cloak & Dagger or the superhero duo Cloak & Dagger, Cloak & Dagger is a 1980s-era video game tie-in movie.

Davey is a young boy with a vivid imagination. He pretends to be a James Bond-esque superspy named Jack Flack in games with other kids, and likes to imagine that Jack is standing beside him in daily life.

One day, Davey is on a fire escape while playing a spy-game with his friend Kim and happens to see a real FBI agent being threatened by a few bad guys. The agent escapes to the stairwell, and hands Davey a cartridge for a game called Cloak & Dagger. With his dying breath, he tells Davey to keep the game away from the hitmen, then gets gunned down by those very hitmen.

Davey escapes with the Cloak & Dagger cartridge. With the help of his imaginary friend Jack, Davey has to keep his precious video game from falling into enemy hands, to protect the important national secrets it contains.

As in many other 80s movies, Cloak & Dagger features a non-traditional family: Davey's father is raising him, as his mother is recently deceased. But surprisingly, it subverts many classic family-movie tropes.

Tropes include:

  • Adult Fear: Your wife has died, and your son has retreated into a fantasy world that is interfering with is real life. Some of this is an understandable way to deal with a loss, but your son is taking it entirely too far, to the point where he is hallucinating his imaginary friend, and (you think) he is now suffering from a delusion that he is really being chased by "the bad guys."
    • And it gets even worse when you realize that that someone really was after him, and you think they may have killed him, and you might have prevented it if you had listened to him earlier....
    Hal: (whispering) Oh God. Why didn't I believe him?
  • Adults Are Useless: Davey's father, the police, and several other characters refuse to believe Davey and will not help him in any way. Even the grandparent-like elderly couple who help Davey escape the hit men turn out to be Evil Old Folks.
  • Batman Cold Open: We start with one of Jack Flack's many adventures, which turns out to be a game being played by our main character, Davey.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Davey fantasizes about cloak and dagger adventures, then gets forced into one.
  • Deadly Dodging: Jack Flack tells Davey to use the "Crossfire Gambit" when he's being pursued by two armed men. He hides under a bridge, and lets the first one pass, then jumps out and runs right past the surprised mook, while the other one fires...right into the mook.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Between the Tower Life Building, River Walk, the Sunken Gardens in Brackenridge Park, and the Alamo, the movie gets a lot of mileage out of using early-1980s San Antonio as a setting.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: George and Eunice MacCready may not make an honest living, but they become very indignant with Rice, Alvarez, and Haverman for their failure to be discreet and maintain a low profile, especially when the latter three try to publicly murder Davey (see Would Hurt a Child below). Eunice even says something to this effect as she and George are in the car while discussing their plans to flee the country, and he agrees. Of course, this changes later when Davey has the upper hand against them, and they retaliate by kidnapping him at gunpoint.
  • Evil Gloating: Rice takes pleasure in telling Davey how he will enjoy shooting Davey in the kneecaps and stomach then watch as Davey dies slowly and painfully. At first, Rice thinks Davey only has a water pistol, but at some point it's clear he figures that Davey has a real gun... but can't bring himself to pull the trigger. Justified in that Rice is (1) a truly nasty piece of work, and (2) he's right. Davey would never have been able to shoot, even in self-defense... had not Jack made a Heroic Sacrifice, albeit an imaginary one.
  • Evil Old Folks: George and Eunice MacCready seem to be grandparent-like figures who are among the few to believe Davey's story. However, they are actually enforcers working for the spies whom Davey is trying to escape, and in the film's climax, they kidnap him at gunpoint and commandeer a plane to flee the country.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over, at most, about 36 hours.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: After the bad guys witness Davey getting the cartridge, and fail to capture him at his home the next day, they kidnap his next-door neighbor and invoke a Hostage for MacGuffin scenario. Jack Flack tells Davey not to play along, and instead tells him to steal a normal Cloak & Dagger cartridge to use for the trade instead. The bad guys figure it out very quickly, as a sticker on the back of the cartridge gives it away.
  • Freudian Trio: Haverman, Alvarez, and Rice fall under this trope as the Id, Ego, and Superego, respectively, in terms of their impulsive behavior, as they select some very public San Antonio landmarks in which they conduct their dirty spy business. Haverman is the most reckless, while Alvarez falls somewhere in between him and Rice, who is the most discreet (albeit very slightly.) Not surprisingly, this is precisely the order in which they are killed. Haverman is killed in a car wreck when he carelessly drives the van into a jewelry store after intending to run down and kill Davey; Alvarez is accidentally killed by Rice during the aforementioned "Crossfire Gambit" when Rice tries to shoot Davey instead; and finally, after picking up the gun from Alvarez's corpse, Davey kills the remaining spy out of rage when backed into a wall when he thinks said remaining spy has killed Jack Flack.
  • Growing Up Sucks: For Jack at least. When the very bloody implications of actual gunplay sink in for Davey and he no longer wants to "play", Jack laments that his father eventually stopped wanting to play Cowboys and Indians too
  • Handcuffed Briefcase: At the opening, we see an officer handcuffing a briefcase to himself before leaving the limousine. Agent Jack Flack is tasked to steal this briefcase, and prepared for this, with a gadget watch that cuts through the handcuffs.
  • Hollywood Nerd: The proprietor of the Game Keeper is an overweight, bearded man with Nerd Glasses who spends most of his time playing video games and requesting Twinkies.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Used on nearly every gun in the movie.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: The FBI agent who is gunned down gives Davey the Cloak & Dagger video game cartridge containing important national secrets just before dying.
  • Imaginary Friend: Jack Flack is Davey's companion through most of the film, but only exists in Davey's imagination. A few scenes are devoted to showing how Jack doesn't reflect in mirrors and isn't visible to other people.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: When Davey brings a security guard to the scene of the murder he'd just witnessed, all evidence has been removed and no one believes him.
  • MacGuffin: The video game cartridge.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never clear whether Jack Flack is some sort of magical being or if he's really just a figment of Davey's imagination. Jack seems to have more situational awareness than Davey in some scenes and implies that he was also Davey's father's imaginary friend. It's even possible that Rice is able to see him during the showdown at the Sunken Gardens, though he may have also been reacting to where Davey was looking and firing on instinct.
    DAVEY: He could see you!
    JACK: (wincing) I doubt he had the imagination.
  • Nerd Glasses: The proprietor of the Game Keeper wears Coke-bottle glasses to establish him as a nerd.
  • Nice Hat: Jack Flack is never seen without his bulletproof beret — though in Davey's showdown with Rice, it turns out that it doesn't stop real bullets.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Jack urges Davey to shoplift a Cloak & Dagger game cartridge from The Game Keeper to give the spies in exchange for Kim rather than the real thing, and surely enough, the "Game Keeper" label on the back not only tips off Rice that it's a faux cartridge, but it ends up leading him right to Morris, who has the real cartridge.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Several scenes suggest that Jack may not be imaginary at all. In several instances, he interacts with the environment and is aware of things that Davey wouldn't be. In a late scene, one of the assassins seems to see Jack. And in his final scene, his dialogue suggests that he was also Davey's father's friend and that whatever he is follows some sort of metaphysical rules.
  • Out of the Inferno: At the end of the film, the plane the MacCreadys have commandeered and which Davey's father, Hal, has volunteered to pilot is blown up by the bomb which Davey stopped from being used to kill Kim. However, Hal emerges from the fireball unharmed.
    Hal: Jack Flack always escapes!
  • Papa Wolf: Hal Osborne becomes the hero in the final act of the film, once he realizes Davey has been telling the truth all along.
  • Parental Substitute: Davey's military air traffic controller father doesn't spend much time with him due to work commitments, so Davey has invented Jack Flack as a replacement father figure. They're even played by the same actor, Dabney Coleman.
  • Parents as People: As stated in Adults Are Useless, Hal, Davey's father, should have had more faith in his son. But considering that he was juggling raising a son on his own, working a stressful job in the Air Force, and dealing with the death of his wife, one can't judge him, especially as that son has retreated into his own fantasy world. At one point, Hal lectures Davey gently that real heroes don't go out and kill "the bad guys;" they do boring things like trying to raise a family right. He also worries, correctly, that Davey's fantasy world has become unhealthy. If anything, Hal is Wrong Genre Savvy; most of the time, his advice would be dead-on accurate. When he realizes that Davey was right, Hal is horrified, and he regrets not believing in him. Then, when Davey is in trouble and Hal is in a position to help, he goes into full Papa Wolf mode. Hal is a near-textbook case of how to write a parent as a complex, imperfect human being correctly. Dabney Coleman has stated that he has had many men come to him and tell him they saw this movie with their sons or fathers, and it was very important in their life.
  • Product Placement: The Cloak and Dagger video game existed as an arcade game. The version shown in the movie uses the arcade screens and is depicted as being played on the Atari 5200, a planned release which was forestalled by the Great Videogame Crash.
  • Red Right Hand: The old lady's hand with only three fingers.
  • To the Pain: When Rice has Davey cornered, he boasts that while he could turn Davey into hamburger in about three seconds with the machine gun, he'd rather start with shooting him in the kneecaps...
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Davey is obsessed with spy adventures that involve global espionage and a lot of murder. His imaginary friend also urges him to gun down a man, while Davey himself is reluctant to take a life.
  • Wham Line: Near the end, after Jack has disappeared....
    Davey: Jack, come back! I can't do this on my own!
    Jack's Disembodied Voice: Yes you can. You were always on your own.
  • Would Hurt a Child: And how. The spies have no qualms whatsoever about murdering children.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: In Jack's Batman Cold Open, he mercilessly kills a few male thugs, but simply makes eyes at a beautiful Femme Fatale. When she levels a gun at him, he blocks it with a bulletproof hat, but the bullet reflects and hits her in the chest. He cradles her as she falls and seems to lament the fact that she died.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Davey think's — at least at first — he's in a more kid-friendly spy story, a la his board games or Spy Kids, or perhaps a lighter James Bond story. Actually, he's in a grittier, darker spy story, akin to Ronin or a John le Carré novel (more family-friendly, but still pretty brutal).