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Film: Jumpin Jack Flash
Terri: Personal chit-chat is prohibited on the International Bank Transponder.
Jack: Not on it.
Terri: How are you transmitting?
Jack: Clamshell terminal. Can't say anymore. This channel unsecured.
Terri: Whoa.

Jumpin' Jack Flash is a 1986 Cold War suspense comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg as Terry Doolittle, a data entry worker in the processing department of a downtown New York City bank. One of her guilty pleasures at work is to drop notes to the operators at the receiving ends of the transfers she processes, often whom are in another country, which generates a number of international friendships and trading of recipes, mixtapes, etc. Right after her boss (Peter Michael Goetz) tells her to stop wasting company resources ("Computers are not friendly, Ms. Doolittle." "I'm not a computer, Mr. Page."), she receives a message from "Jumpin Jack Flash", which she tries to dismiss, but becomes intrigued with his mysterious statements. She arranges a time to chat later that night (in the office), but first has to deduce Jack's "code key", which (though it is not stated) will encrypt their communications. The answer is in the Rolling Stones song Jumpin' Jack Flash ("Sing with me and find the key,") and while she comes up with many seemingly good guesses, she realizes that the "key" is, literally, the key of the music: "B-Flat".

It turns out Jack is a spy, and is stuck in Eastern Europe without a way out. He needs someone on the outside to reach one of his contacts and tell them his situation, so they can arrange for a new exit plan. Terry is led to his apartment, where she can find a hidden list of his contacts (she also gets to hear his voice, which is from that point on used in voice over for all his messages). Her meeting with Jack's first contact goes poorly when he is shot dead. She next reaches the wife of one of Jack's contacts (Annie Potts), who has connections at the NYC British Consulate. After various chases and near-misses, Annie and her family suddenly disappear, and another one of Jack's contacts (Roscoe Lee Brown) tells Terry that Jack is a pawn, not meant to be saved but sacrificed for more important reasons. Terry rejects this, and after being drugged by a KGB lackey (James Belushi), barges her way into the presence of the Consul's wife (who formerly had a relationship with Jack), and angrily demands she convince her husband to provide Jack with a new escape plan. Eventually, the wife relents.

All this time, Terry has been building an infatuation with Jack that edges closer to a love affair, even though at one point she has to correct his misconception that "Terry" is a man, which causes Jack to freak out and plans to cut off contact, but she convinces him to let her keep helping him. Eventually Jack seems to return Terry's textual affections.

Unfortunately, it turns out that one of the Consulate staff, Talbott (John Wood) is a KGB mole, who ultimately provided the (bad) contact to the consul. Terry bluffs that she sent Jack different information, and escapes, running to her office to get on the computer and warn Jack about the bad information just as he is about to head out to his certain death. The KGB moles are in tow, and follow her into the office, preventing her from sending the message. A firefight ensues, where it is discovered that Hollywood Nerd coworker Marty (Stephen Collins) is actually an undercover CIA agent, who takes out most of the KGB goons, and Terry manages to disable Talbott, much to his shock, and send off the message. Marty (real name Peter and the last of Jack's secret contacts) gets onto the chat session with Jack and gives him a good contact.

Jack promises to meet Terry for dinner when he gets back to New York, but he never shows, being held up in London. Terry feels silly, and later tries to blow Jack off angrily, when he reveals he is sitting ten feet from her on another computer. We finally see Jack (Jonathan Pryce), and the pair have a romantic reunion to a cheering crowd of coworkers.


Jumpin Jack Flash includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Black and Nerdy: Terry, played mostly subverted, but cracking code keys and having more online friendships than in real life and an online romance is pretty geeky, even moreso for 1986.
  • Camera Sniper: Terry delivers Jack's message to the British Embassy, but they pretend not to understand it. As she leaves, someone takes her photograph.
  • Comically Missing the Point: zigzagged, for the man in the street who waves back at Terry while she is trapped in the phone booth. Also to some extent, the window washer in the same scene.
  • Dramatic Spotlight: when Archer confronts Terry at Liz Carlson's vacant house.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The shiny-shoed killer
  • Frying Pan of Doom
  • Groin Attack is how Terry disables Talbott at the end, rather graphically, without actually showing anything.
  • Hat Pull: how Terry escapes the cop car.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: blatantly, when Liz introduces Terry as her cousin.
  • Hollywood Tourette's subverted as an excuse for Terry's expletive-laden rant at the police station. Perhaps one of the first places the term was used in popular culture — the speaker has to explain it, and the listener asks someone to look it up.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "pawn" and "prawn".
  • Mistaken for Spies: Both Van Meter and Talbott do this to Terry.
  • Not My Driver
  • Percussive Maintenance on the malfunctioning monitor.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In-Universe example: Terry bluffs her way into a government party by dressing up as a Supreme and lip-syncing "You Can't Hurry Love".
    Receptionist: I'm sorry, I can't let you in without an invitation... You look awfully familiar.
    Terry: That's because I'm the entertainment.
  • Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Justified because Terry has a habit of talking to herself (given that she's socially isolated) and most of the time she's reading out loud what Jack is typing on her screen.
  • Secret Identity: Marty.
  • Single Malt Vision: After Terry gets drugged, she staggers back in to her job at the bank, still thoroughly stoned. Her boss informs her that she has managed to "shatter the Guinness record for tardiness", to which she replies...
    Terry: *giggles* I'm not gonna say anything. Well, maybe one or two things. C'mere. All six of you, come here!
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Zigzagged while Terry is being towed away.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Terry's (lame, yet effective) bluff on Talbott. It ends up backfiring as she is subsequently Wrongly Accused.
  • Spy Speak: "Dogs barking. Can't fly without umbrella."
  • The Glasses Come Off: Marty.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Whenever Terry types a message — and until she hears his voice, every time Jack sends one back, after which his messages are Voice Over Letters.
  • The Mole: Talbott.
  • To the Pain: The bad guys demonstrate on some storefront dummies what they intend doing to Terry.
  • Took A Level In Bad Ass: Subverted with Marty, who suddenly pulls out a handgun and drops a machine-pistol-waving goon. But Marty is really a spy, so he was capable of this all along. Hinted early on when Marty handily disarms Terry attacking him with a tennis racquet, then tries to cover.
  • Truth Serum which doesn't quite work
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: a preemptive Samus is a Girl, which is partially averted.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Averted, but played up, when Terry's dress gets caught in a shredder. She desperately holds on to the dress' cups to prevent it. Regardless, her dress does get much shorter as a result.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent

Jean de FloretteFilms of the 1980sKin-Dza-Dza!

alternative title(s): Jumpin Jack Flash
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