Young Davey Osborne loves computer games,
Especially the exploits of Jack Flack,
A superspy who’s known by many names.
While on a “secret” escapade with Jack,
His own imagined friend who looks like Dad,
The boy observes a murderous attack.
The cops assume that Davey might be mad;
His mother died, and games are his escape.
Not even Davey’s father trusts the lad.
He gives his gamer friend Morris a tape,
A Cloak and Dagger game the victim gave
Him right before he got into this scrape.
This game is what the secret villains crave.
They kidnap Davey’s younger playmate Kim,
And urge a trade before they dig her grave.
He rescues her, but Morris, on a whim,
Finds hidden plans that cost the man his life,
And Davey learns the villain Rice shot him.
Rice has the cartridge, which could kindle strife,
But Davey manages to get the game,
Thanks to a helpful old man and his wife.
When Dave sees Rice and is chased by the same,
Jack’s help provokes the armed young boy to fire,
And Davey, sick of games, gives Jack the blame.
Once Jack fades out, unneeded like times prior,
The boy pursues the bad guys to their plane
And ends up as a hostage, not a liar.
His father joins him, as the spies ordain,
And helps to get him out ere things go bad.
A hidden bomb kills those spies that remain,
And Davey doesn’t need Jack Flack, just Dad.

Cloak and Dagger is a film I fondly remember watching and loving every minute of as a child. Henry Thomas (in one of his few good roles after playing Elliott in E.T.) is highly believable as the imaginative but overwhelmed Davey, and Dabney Coleman turns in a great dual performance as both Davey’s father and his more dashing counterpart Jack Flack.

Jack’s invisible advice to Davey, totally unseen by everyone else, is reminiscent of similar themes in films such as Harvey and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and such imperceptible characters have been used since in other movies like Heart and Souls and Ghost Town. Yet, unlike most of these, Jack Flack is not a ghost but an imaginary friend that may not be imaginary. His sometimes physical assistance for Davey and his direct intervention near the end open the possibility that he was real, a theory heightened by his mention of Davey’s father outgrowing him too. While the film doesn’t go into this, I tend to think that Jack is the living embodiment of various children’s imaginations, assigned to certain kids until they “stop believing.” This seems very similar to the likewise age-and-belief-restricted status of fairies in Nickelodeon’s show Fairly OddParents. If Jack was alive, I do wonder what became of him; perhaps he went to live at Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. 🙂

The sight of those old computers and Atari game cartridges certainly dates the film overall, but the movie itself is enjoyably tense and intricate in its tribute to espionage and covert missions. A big reveal (which I won’t divulge) really took me by surprise, and the end is sure to keep anyone on the edge of their seat. Though several people are killed, the film manages to be mostly family friendly, with gunshots obviously muted and most deaths being bloodless or off-screen. Plus, the filmmakers must have been trying to appeal to younger audiences as well since they threw in hardly any language, which I applaud.

While these elements may have been used in earlier films I haven’t seen, I did think certain scenes may have inspired other spy films. For instance, Davey’s insistence about a murder that is cleaned up before authorities can find any evidence was reused in Whoopi Goldberg’s Jumpin’ Jack Flash two years later, and the part in which a wounded man fleeing bad guys bestows something important on the nearest unsuspecting bystander is akin to a similar scene in 1987’s Innerspace.

Part of a 1980s video-game trend that also included Tron, WarGames, and The Last Starfighter, Cloak and Dagger is a twisting spy film that can appeal to adults and children alike, combining intrigue, action, and a good moral (see below) into a highly entertaining adventure.

Best line: (Davey’s father Hal) “Heroes don’t just shoot bad guys. They put supper on the table, they fix bicycles, they do—they do boring things, real things, not make-believe. And you’ll understand that when you get a little bit older.”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 7
Watchability: 8
Other (I just like other films more): -6
TOTAL: 35 out of 60

Next: #264 – Amazing Grace

© 2014 S. G. Liput