Film / Firefox

"You must think in Russian."
Dr. Baronovich

1982 Movie adaptation of Craig Thomas' 1977 novel, the first real technothriller, starring, directed by and produced by Clint Eastwood. The Soviet Union has developed a new superplane, the MiG 31, called by the Americans "Firefox". It's capable of Mach 6, can't be detected on radar and has weapons launched by thought (but in Russian of course).

There are some differences from the novel,note  but Thomas fans like the adaptation and Thomas himself dedicated his sequel book Firefox Down to Eastwood.

Note that there is in fact, an actual MiG-31 (NATO reporting name Foxhound) and that it reached service in the same year as the movie reached theatres. It's far lamer than its movie counterpart: the only thing it can do well is go really fast.

Amusing note: when reconnaissance photos of the Firefox's predecessor, the MiG-25 "Foxbat", first came to light, its huge wings and apparent manoeuvrability promised thereby caused a panic in the US military. It was only when a defector brought a copy over that the truth came out: the thing was made of a very heavy alloy, needed huge wings just to get off the ground, couldn't dogfight to save its life and had a very short range. That said, it was very fast, faster than anything modern any air force fields today, and its apparent purpose, high-ceiling heavy interceptor (fast delivery of a missile platform) and reconnaissance bomber duty, did not involve dogfighting. Simply put, it wasn't actually intended to be a fighter.

In the novel, when a character points out the Belenko defection, and resultant false alarm, as a reason not to panic about the "Firefox", another tells him that their information is that the plane is seriously as good as feared.

Predates by two decades and has nothing at all to do with the web browser Mozilla Firefox.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Gant is infiltrating the Soviet Union as a common smuggler, in the hope that this will attract less attention from the KGB.
    "If you tip-toe past the dragon, it might just raise an eyelid and sniff at you. But if you awaken it..."
  • California Doubling: Vienna stands in for Moscow, for obvious reasons. Hilariously combined with Television Geography - Clint Eastwood enters subway line U1 at Karlsplatz, but gets off at Sch÷nbrunn, a U4 station.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Gant ambushes the real Firefox pilot in the pilot's bathroom, and then spends as much time as he can hiding in there.
    • Earlier Gant suffers a PTSD attack and hides in a public toilet booth to recover. A KGB agent hears him moaning and hammers on the door, demanding his identification papers. The distraught Gant panics and kills him after the KGB man (falsely, as it turns out) claims his papers are not in order.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal example, the rearward-defense pods. Not flares but aerial mines, which he uses to great effect on the second Firefox, destroying it.
    • Of course, that's not what he says in his mangled Russian. It sounds very much like "release second missiles" (in plural form, for some reason; no sane person would talk to a computer in a plural/respectful manner).
      • Probably similar to how American pilots will call out "Fox 3" when firing a special weapon, which in this case, would be a very literal interpretation. Saying/Thinking "Release second missiles" is basically saying "fire special weapons" or to an American...Fox 3.
    • The moment before he launches the mines, he remembers that he's supposed to think in Russian for the mind-reading computer to react. It's all well and good, except he apparently forgot under the stress of facing his first serious threat of the movie — the other MiG-31 prototype.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Remember the test pilot he refused to kill while infiltrating the base? It comes back to bite Gant later towards the end when the pilot in question takes the second prototype on a spin.
  • Cool Plane
  • Darkest Hour: Gant manages against all odds to get Firefox to the refueling point on dry tanks, and sees only an empty ice floe. He figures he's going down in the Arctic Ocean for the last time, when suddenly he spots the refueling vessel: a submarine.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A conversation between the First Secretary and Gant.
    First Secretary "Are you enjoying your ride, Mr. Gant? You like our new toy?"
    Gant "Could be improved."
    First Secretary "Ah. Your expert opinion, Mr. Gant?"
  • Dirty Communists: A narration, by a dissident, of a few Kick the Dog moments are awkwardly tacked in just so you know stealing their plane is the right thing to do.
    Dr. Baronovich "Mr. Gant, you are an American. You are a free man. I am not. There is a difference. If I am resentful of the men in Washington who are ordering my death, then it is a small thing when compared with my RESENTMENT of the KGB."
  • Dodge by Braking: A full four years before it was done in Top Gun.
  • Fictional Document: The exchange of memos between two SIS agents at the beginning, developing the plan to steal the aircraft.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: Of the Firefox.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pretty much every single double agent dies getting Gant to the plane.
  • Idiot Ball: Gant's explicitly warned to watch his speed going through the Ural mountains to avoid tripping listening posts. What does he do? Opens the MiG-31 up to SR-71 speeds. Results in Crowning Momentof Awesome as everything turns into a blur, but immediately blows the "head-south-go-north" gambit up in his face.
  • I Owe You My Life: Gant has a chance to kill the Firefox pilot but refuses to kill a helpless, innocent man. In the Firefox-vs-Firefox dogfight later, the prototype pilot returns the favor.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: Before he goes to Russia, Gant is handed an ordinary looking radio. He's then told it's a navigational device meant to guide Firefox to a secret refueling point — and that if he loses it in Russia, he's dead. It doesn't figure in the plot until he's well into his flight at which time he pulls it out and uses it as intended.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Gant is yanked out of his isolated, PTSD-soaked life and thrust straightaway into a spy mission.
  • Lzherusskie: Loads and loads of Lzherusskie.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted - Gant is chased by the second prototype.
    • Despite being averted the Trope becomes self-fulfilling, as the second prototype is destroyed in the climactic final battle, and all of the lead developers are killed helping Gant steal the original.
  • Oh Crap!: The look on Col. Kontarsky's face as the First Secretary's car pulls up, JUST as the Firefox begins taking-off.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Gant, in spades. He's afflicted with PTSD throughout the movie, based on his experiences in Vietnam.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of the Firefox flying scenes are laughable by today's computer-generated standards, but the dogfight was excellent. Specifically, Gant is forced to whipstall the Firefox to avoid a pair of missiles, triggering a PTSD episode. The other pilot escorts him down, but does not deliver the fatal blow (see I Owe You My Life above). He recovers from the stall by deploying his landing gear, adding drag and slowing him down, and allowing him to pull up.
  • Skilled, but Na´ve: Gant's an ace Vietnam-era pilot but has no clue about playing spy games. As a result, he and The Mole leave a trail of bodies behind them.
  • Soviet Superscience: If not the Trope Maker, certainly a famous example.
  • Super Prototype: Two of them, actually.
  • Translation Convention: all of the Russians speak English to each other while trying to hunt Gant down.
    • The movie goes back and forth between this and Just a Stupid Accent. It is stated that Gant had a Russian mother and is fluent in the language. When he is speaking to Russians, we are meant to assume Translation Convention because he sounds just like Clint Eastwood speaking English. When the Russians speak back (or are speaking to each other), they have over the top hammy Russian accents. The only time this is justified in the film is when the Soviet premier contacts Gant when he is in the Firefox. As he knows Gant is American, he speaks to him in accented English. It would've made much more sense to leave out the hammy Russian accents in all of the other scenes.
  • Underestimating Badassery: For a while, the prototype pilot dogfights Gant by refusing to give him a clear shot for his aerial mines, but then assumes Gant doesn't know to use them and switches to conventional dogfight tactics. At the end of the dogfight, Gant finally remembers how to fire an aerial mine and destroys the second prototype.
  • Vehicle Title: Firefox refers to the codename of the Super Prototype Cool Plane the plot centers on.
  • Wham Line: When Gant learns the details of his mission.
    Buckholz "We have three months to train you. It's getting you there that's the problem."
    Gant "Oh? Where is it?"
    Buckholz "Russia. You've got to STEAL it."