Cloak & Dagger

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Davey Osborne (Henry Thomas) is a 11-year-old who lives in San Antonio with his father, Hal Osborne (Dabney Coleman). His mother has recently died, leaving just him and his father, a military air traffic controller who has problems relating to his child. Davey is a lonely child and is still grieving over his mother, so he immerses himself in the fantasy world of Cloak & Dagger, an espionage game which exists in both role playing and video forms. Davey has one friend, Kim, (Christina Nigra) a girl who lives nearby with her single mother. Davey is interested in the world of espionage and his hero is the character Jack Flack from the game. He wants to live an action-packed life like Jack Flack and he carries around a water pistol as his “gun” and a softball as his “grenade”. Davey spends much of his free time playing Cloak & Dagger and spinning elaborate fantasies involving Jack Flack, who in Davey’s mind takes the form of a more dashing version of his father (the role of Flack is also played by Coleman).

One day Davey’s friend Morris (William Forsythe), who owns a video game shop in the local mall, sends Davey and Kim on an errand, where Davey witnesses a murder. Right before the victim dies, he gives Davey a Cloak & Dagger video-game cartridge and says that the cartridge contains important military secrets, that he must get it to the FBI. Davey seeks help from the authorities but they simply believe him to be engaging in fantasy play.

Murderous spies, led by the malevolent Dr. Rice (Michael Murphy), chase Davey relentlessly as he flees across the city. The action moves from Davey’s house, to a series of tour boats, to the Alamo. Along the way Davey manages to continually evade his pursuers with the aid and advice of the imaginary Jack Flack. However, along the way Davey’s relationship with Flack becomes more strained as his own sense of morality and concern for his friend Kim collide with Flack’s harsh methods and cavalier attitude. This comes to a head when Davey is cornered by Rice, a brutal spy, along the River Walk.

During the fight, Jack Flack urges Davey to set the two spies into a crossfire, causing one to kill the other. He then convinces Davey to pick up the gun of the dead spy. When he is then cornered, Jack Flack attempts a distraction, causing Davey to look off to the side. Thinking that somebody else has arrived, the spy fires at a blank wall. Davey in anger fires at Rice, causing him to fall dead into the river.

Davey then realizes that Jack Flack tricked him into shooting the spy, and is filled with rage and guilt. He throws away the pistol, then takes out the miniature toy of Jack Flack, breaking it and shouting “I don’t want to play anymore!” Jack Flack tells Davey that his father behaved the same way at his age, growing tired of playing “Cowboys and Indians”. He says Davey was his favorite play partner, then Jack fades away into nothing.

Earlier in a scene at the Alamo, Davey is befriended by a kindly elderly couple. Seemingly the only adults to believe him, or at least the only ones who are willing to humor his adventures, the couple turn out to be enforcers working for the spies. Davey manages to escape their clutches, but without the game cartridge, and he chases the couple to the airport where they are attempting to flee the country. At the airport, Davey forces the couple’s hand by pretending that they are his parents and that they are abandoning him. When security attempts to intervene, the couple kidnaps Davey at gunpoint and commandeers a plane, unaware that Davey has brought with him a bomb which the spies had meant to use to kill Kim. Unwilling to listen to Davey about the bomb, the couple requests a pilot. Meanwhile, Hal has arrived at the airport with Kim’s mother, and after hearing about the hostage situation, he volunteers to be the pilot. The two manage to escape safely, the bomb kills the dastardly couple. The film ends with the two reunited and Davey insisting he no longer needs Jack Flack because he has his father

REVIEW:

My apologies to those of you expecting a review of The Hobbit this weekend. Due to time constraints, I won’t be able to see it this weekend. Hopefully, I can get to it next weekend. In the meantime, let’s go back to the 80s and play a little game of Cloak & Dagger.

What is this about?

An imaginative, 11-year-old boy (Henry Thomas) discovers there’s a sinister plot afoot to smuggle top-secret military information out of the United States inside a cassette of his favorite video game, Cloak and Dagger. Unable to convince his father (Dabney Coleman) that he’s telling the truth about the enemy agents and the murder they’ve committed, the lad enlists help from his imaginary friend, a dashing spy named Jack Flack.

What did I like?

Setting. I’m a native Texan (born in Ft Worth), and I love films that are filmed and set in Texas. Granted, most movies that are set in Texas tend to go for the more open parts. Take for instance All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which I watched this last week. That was set and filmed in Texas, but it wasn’t inherently obvious. This film, however puts San Antonio on full display. As that is one of my favorite cities to visit, you can imagine my bliss seeing it used here (and I also caught parts of Miss Congeniality yesterday, which really showcased the city).

Child actors. Let’s face it, most child stars, especially before say the late 90s, were flat-out annoying, with a couple of stand out here and there. Henry Thomas (who you may recognize from a little film called E.T.: Extra Terrestrial) and Christina Nigra don’t come off as annoying. Well, I should take that back. They seem to be regular kids with impressive imaginations. As the backbone of this film, is it any wonder it is held in such high esteem with them anchoring everything down.

Plot. I think it is safe to say that if you’re reading this post, you either played or know about the days when video games were cartridges, rather than discs. A different era, to be sure. So, yes, this film is dated, but the plot of sneaking military secrets in a video game cartridge is just genius in its simplicity. Sometimes you don’t need a complicated scheme.

What didn’t I like?

Video games. For a movie that uses a video game as part of its plot, there sure is a severe lack of video game scenes here. Now, I’m not saying this needed to be something like The Wizard, The Last Starfighter, or Tron, but it would have been nice to have a few more scenes of the very game that the titular cartridge is from.

Imaginary. Dabney Coleman’s character is an imaginary friend for Henry Thomas’ character, who happens to be the protagonist from the game. For the most part, he is comic relief and someone for the audience to latch onto (because Thomas is rather wooden, let’s be honest). However, there come these moments, especially near his end, where it comes into question whether or not he actually was imaginary. Another character that follows this pattern is Ninja Ninja from Afro Samurai. He appears to be imaginary, but you’re just not sure, especially when he meets his end.

Shot. These days it is almost normal to see a kid kill someone in film, but back in the early 80s, that wasn’t so commonplace. There was a term that people used to use. I believe it was “Innocence lost”. I’m a fan of shoot ’em up and hack and slash films, I know, so it is rather hypocritical for me to say this, but there was no need for the needless violence and death that came from this one scene.

As a child of the 80s, I seem to have a soft spot, or perhaps a better word would be nostalgia, for films that take me back to my childhood and remind me of weekday afternoons coming home from school and watching cartoons. Cloak & Dagger turned out to be another of those films. Does that mean I recommend it, though? Yes, it does. Not only is this a film that will drudge up nostalgia, but it is a very well made flick that is sure to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

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