Cloak & Dagger (1984)


11-year-old Davey (Henry Thomas, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) is prone to telling stories that involve an imaginary superhero named Jack Flack (Dabney Coleman, On Golden Pond). Davey’s dad (also played by Coleman) is worried about his son’s fanciful imagination, but he is too busy to do much about the problem. One day Davey sees the assassination of a government agent, but no one believes him and Davey has no choice but hide from the bad guys who want him dead.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I don’t need him anymore. I’ve got you, Dad.”

Disney meets Hitchcock. This reworking of the 1949 thriller The Window (both movies were based on the short story The Boy Cried Murder by Cornell Woolrich) is superior to the original in almost every aspect. Suspenseful, clever, endearing, Cloak & Dagger is a surprisingly multi-layered thriller for older kids.

The film’s premise is simple, but it’s pretty obvious that (underrated) Aussie director Richard Franklin (Road Games and Psycho II) and his team weren’t content with regurgitating an old movie for a new generation. They took the old post-war B-movie and transformed it into a cogent exploration of the culture of the 1980s.

Writer Tom Holland (Child’s Play) huddles together a lot of ’80s issues into a seamless script. Cloak & Dagger is a tense Cold War thriller, a poignant father-and-son drama, a fun superhero movie, all cleverly wheeled into one entertaining film. It also deals with the emergence of video game addiction. In other words, Cloak & Dagger is a compelling window into Reagan-era ethos.

Henry Thomas proves here that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial wasn’t a fluke; his name belongs among cinema’s best child actors. Thomas’s technique is simple, direct and unaffected — he looks and acts like a real kid.

As far as I’m concerned, this is character actor Dabney Coleman’s finest film role(s). Cloak & Dagger works because Coleman is totally believable in dual, but opposite roles. Michael Murphy (Manhattan) plays a brutal assassin. William Forsythe (Dick Tracy) is a video gamer. Real-life husband & wife John McIntire (Winchester ’73) and Jeanette Nolan (Psycho) are delightfully slimy as a pair of nasty spies.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Cloak & Dagger is more weighty than your average modern kiddie show. Although sold as a kid adventure, the film deals with lots of serious issues. Above all, Cloak & Dagger is one of the nicest father-son films I’ve seen — if you are a dad, or you are a single parent, this movie is for you. This is also a great film for Hitchcock aficionados: the movie is filled with funny references to many Hitchcock movies. Give it a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended! Color, 102 minutes, PG.

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