Looked back upon with mixed favour, I still believe as much today as in the mid 80’s that this is a smart, thrilling action film. Roy Scheider seemed to fit these roles so well, and McDowell was cheesy and yet enjoyable as the inexplicable thoroughly British member of the U.S. Air Force.
The film opens with a series of title cards explaining that the technology exhibited within this film were already developed and that intimately, heat cameras, super sensitive microphones, and F-16 style helmet/mini gun interfaces were already in use, and not just science fiction.
Though the idea that a Helicopter of this kind being adopted by the police is less than plausible, it is still a fun concept. The script even uses the upcoming 1984 L.A. Olympics to justify the need for this heavily armed chopper’s use over the city.
But the subtext, though not quite so ‘sub’, is that the threat of this big brother tech being employed within a free society and not even just Blue Thunder itself, but rather the Astro Division in general. Early in the film, it shows the voyeuristic nature of the chopper crews and the temptation to abuse there powers, in this case by watching a young woman engage in some form of nude yoga!
It also shows in the same sequence the uses of the aerial support as it should be, aiding the black and whites on ground.
This is though, after all is said and done, a pretty straight forward nuts and bolts action flick, with a cool helicopter, good performances and great action. This is also a slightly darker film that you might expect with several more adult moments. They just don’t make ’em like they used to…