Brian: Plus, it’s given me a chance to work on my novel. And I finally have a title.
Lois Griffin: Oh, what is it?
Brian: Faster Than the Speed of Love.
Lois Griffin: [chuckles] That is… that is the worst title I’ve ever heard.
Brian: No, i-it’s the story of a boy who has to rescue his father, who’s a pilot that’s been taken captive by a militant Islamic country.
Lois Griffin: [laughs] That’s the movie Iron Eagle!
Brian: What? Is that-is that a recent film?
Lois Griffin: [still laughing] They made three sequels!
6×02 “Movin’ Out (Brian’s Song)
Action films of the 1980s are in a league all of their own. The ludicrousness, the over-the-top of it all and the seemingly invincible protagonists and 1986’s Iron Eagle had all of this in spades. The plot goes that a USAF pilot is shot down by an unnamed Islamic country (OK it was very obviously meant to be Libya, I don’t know why they never just came out and said it) and now his son and a semi-retired veteran pilot hatch a plan to rescue him using just two F-16 Fighting Falcons that his teenage friends have helped them steal.
Remember what I said about 1980s action films being ludicrous? This has one of the most unrealistic plots ever. What was the intention of this film? Was it supposed to be a gritty action film or a teenage action-comedy? I am not saying that the idea of using fighter planes to rescue a hostage/loved one is bad. Far from it. If this script was tweaked and a few things dropped there is potential there for a fairly decent action movie. What I absolutely hated however was that a group of air force brats are able to hoodwink the USAF, especially at the height of the Cold War, to get the two F-16s. I know you have to suspend disbelief to an extent with most films but for this to work you had to shut off your brain entirely. It gets even worse when in a flashback scene we learn that before he was shot down Doug’s father has been secretly training him to fly an F-16.
I have always felt Louis Gosset Jr was an actor who never got the chance to be the superstar he deserves to be but frankly if he chooses roles like this then its no surprise. That being said he does his best given the limitations of the script. When he is making the recording for Doug in case he gets shot down it is surprisingly touching to hear. Louis Gosset Jr was by far and away the best actor in this movie. However, I can’t help but think that his character, Chappy, must be suffering from some kind of Vietnam War psychological syndrome as this would be the only reason a seasoned pilot would go along with these kids and their plan.
Of course, action movies rely on the action more than anything and to be fair here Iron Eagle does have a decent amount. The opening race between the Cessna and the motorbike was entertaining to watch and probably the most believable part of the movie (sadly). I know there is a lot of oil in the Middle East, at least there was in the 1980s, but did the not-Libyans put it everywhere because the buildings explode in huge fireballs. It looks daft. At one point a radio tower crashes in to a tent which goes up like napalm. The flight sequences with the F-16s are good but when you consider Top Gun came out a year earlier and looked far superior it does diminish the quality somewhat.
Therein lies Iron Eagle’s biggest problem. It went up against one of the most iconic and beautiful movies of the 1980s. I am not saying Top Gun is perfect but it had such a higher quality to it in every way – acting, production, script – that it glossed over its own failings. One thing the two movies do have in common however is a great soundtrack with Iron Eagle enjoying songs from Queen and Steve Winwood.
In the end Iron Eagle is a rather uninspiring 80s action flick. Incredibly it did produce three sequels and while all suffered similar problems to the first movie they were in my humble opinion superior.