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  Cloak & Dagger The Boy Who Cried WolfBuy this film here.
Year: 1984
Director: Richard Franklin
Stars: Henry Thomas, Dabney Coleman, Michael Murphy, Christina Nigra, John McIntire, Jeanette Nolan, Eloy Casados, Tim Rossovich, William Forsythe, Robert DoQui, Shelby Leverington, Linden Chiles, Robert Curtin, William Marquez, Wendell Wright, Nicholas Guest
Genre: Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Davey Osborne (Henry Thomas) has an overactive imagination which is only fuelled by his grown up friend Morris (William Forsythe) who runs a games shop and also designs them. His latest is a spy game which features Davey's imaginary hero Jack Flack (Dabney Coleman), a figure who will turn up in his real life to advise him when he's playing out his fantasies of being an undercover agent. Davey's best friend is Kim (Christina Nigra) who doesn't exactly share his enthusiasm for these things, especially when he always seems to beat her at them, but likes him all the same. However, Davey is about to get them both into a lot of trouble...

Duality seems to be the theme of Cloak & Dagger, which many took to be a feature length promotion for computer games manufacturer Atari when it was initially relased. It's true the cartridge of the title was made by that company, but as few played it in real life, and then only in arcades, it's hard to see if it did them any good, particularly as the bottom was about to fall out of the console market soon after this film was made. Better then to concentrate on the intriguing plotline, which went deeper in its concerns than many children's movies of its day.

Cornell Woolrich gets a credit for the story of this due to its similarity to what was made into the Bobby Driscoll film The Window, and it's true that this took the same idea of a little boy becoming embroiled with a large conspiracy which nobody will believe him about - nobody except the villains, of course, who go out of their way to kill him off. But Woolrich wouldn't have dreamed of having computer games as the driving force behind the narrative, so what you ended up with was basically a Hitchcock thriller for eighties kids, not surprising when you know that director Richard Franklin was a pupil of the great filmmaker, and had also just had a hit with Psycho II.

That duality is evident in the manner in which almost everything in the film can be taken two ways, from Davey's witnessing of a murder in an office block - is it his imagination or has it really happened? - to the adults' view of his predicament, as they don't seem to be sure either. As ever, Jack Flack is there at his side, the embodiment of the hero Davy looks up to and what he wishes his father could be: it's no coincidence that Coleman is cast in both roles. We are clear that the boy's life is in danger, anyway, as once he tries in vain to warn his elders that a killing has occured, and that it's something to do with the cartridge, the bad guys are undoubtedly after him.

If Cloak & Dagger grows far fetched then it's no more outlandish than WarGames, another film from this year that had a Cold War theme, though here it never reaches a global scale. Still, Davey is forced into fleeing for his life while his father significantly is absent, and with Morris discovering secret plans on the game which leads to his death, screenwriter Tom Holland is not afraid to pull his punches (indeed, the film was cut by about half a minute when it was released in Britain). The imaginary friend stuff can be pretty silly, but it is distinctive, and there are a few decent twists that may not be plausible, but are all in the service of the thrills, so you cannot envisage the target audience complaining much. But the ambiguity is puzzling, even to the finale, which could just as easily be Davey's fantasy as it could be a happy ending. Music by Brian May.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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