1986 in Film – Iron Eagle

Release Date: January 17th
Box Office: $23,066,122

You know when you get two films out in the same year that are essentially the same? Like Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998)? This might be one of those films: cool dudes flying around in jets.

Of course, the one that arrives later in the year has a lot more star power whilst Iron Eagle (1986) is much more of a bottom of the shelf movie. The main star of the cast is Lou Gosset Jr, at this point mainly known for his Oscar winning appearance in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and not forgetting under a ton of make up in Enemy Mine (1985). Quite how he ends up in his film is another question.

You could also level this question at the director, Sidney J Furie; his filmography stretched back to the 50s and included the classic The Ipcress File (1965) and also cult horror film The Entity (1981).

How do they end up in a film about planes and stuff? For the money, I expect is the depressing answer.

Cool 80s Dude Jason Gedrick (as you can tell my his clothes and sunglasses on the poster) plays Doug Masters, a wannabe Air Force pilot who’s father is an actual Air Force pilot who ends up being shot down over some bad fictional Middle Eastern country. There’s no hope for a rescue until Masters teams up with Col. Charles “Chappy” Sinclair, a reserve Air Force pilot and Vietnam veteran, and they come up with a plan to steal two F16s, blow up some Ruskies and save the day.

It’s clearly a film made in the 80s. This is ignoring the music and the hair styles and just looking at the antagonists. The Russians loom large, given that we’re still in the midst of The Cold War. They’re the obvious villains for this type of jingoistic film that celebrates the might of the American war machine. Not that said war machine actually helped that much with the film; given that the plot for the film revolved around the stealing of two fighter jets, the Air Force wouldn’t help with the production of the film which meant that the Israeli air force stepped in to help out.

Did that influence the other villain of the piece, personified by a Pre-Poirot David Suchet? He’s the evil Col. Akir Nakesh, a soldier in this evil Middle Eastern state. Despite Rambo III (1988) casting the Mujahideen in a favourable light, the Middle Eastern bad guy was something that was rising in the US popular culture. This would be hammered home in the 90s thanks to True Lies (1994) and thats even before we get to the War on Terror.

Saying that the film doesn’t really deal with the shades of grey that permeate the history of that region probably goes without saying. This film is more interested in the bangs and the shiny jets and the red white and blue. Gedrick as Masters does his best in a role that is flimsy at best leaving Gosset Jr to do all the heavy lifting in the film. The director always had a good visual eye which doesn’t let him down too much here despite the simple material he’s working with.

Naturally, this combination of US derring do and overseas bad people did well at the box office and with home video sales to justify three sequels. It probably didn’t hurt having a fairly radio friendly soundtrack including one of Queen’s hits of that period.

This is clearly a film of it’s time, one that has to be viewed through the world view of the period. It’s essentially a half baked lump of propaganda, although one that would be swept away by the jets of another fighter plane based film later in the year. Iron Eagle (1986) ends up then being remembered for a random song on it’s soundtrack and as a footnote in the filmography of people with much better work elsewhere.

And three sequels. Three. How does that work?

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