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Iron Eagle (1986) - Plot Summary Poster

(1986)

Plot

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Summaries

  • When Doug's father, an Air Force Pilot, is shot down by MiGs belonging to a radical Middle Eastern state, no one seems able to get him out. Doug finds Chappy, an Air Force Colonel who is intrigued by the idea of sending in two fighters piloted by himself and Doug to rescue Doug's father after bombing the MiG base. Their only problems: Borrowing two fighters, getting them from California to the Mediteranean without anyone noticing, and Doug's inability to hit anything unless he has music playing. Then come the minor problems of the state's air defenses.

  • A heroic young pilot launches his own rescue mission when his father, an Air Force veteran, is shot down over enemy territory and captured.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Doug, a graduating high school senior, must quickly come to grips with manhood in a time of great emotional stress. He demonstrates leadership of his peers as together they develop materials and information to effect a rescue mission. He interacts with a skilled Air Force veteran to accomplish this daring mission. An underlying theme of the movie is the friendly conflict between children and parents, including several scenes where adults are lampooned as ineffective or easily redirected. Doug must also realize that he doesn't have all the answers, and must rely on the wisdom of a mentor. The pivotal rescue mission and climax showcase the talent of youth and the reconnection with that youth in the heart of the partnering Air Force pilot.

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    Doug Masters is a hot-headed high school senior about to graduate. He is the son of a top-rated US Air Force pilot, Colonel Ted Masters, and lives on his father's base. Doug has a network of friends, also military kids, who will often secretly procure information for him and each other by exploiting their parents' positions on the base. Doug himself is often given the opportunity to fly with his father and control the F16 jet they go up in. Doug is often also given time in the base's simulator. Doug also has aspirations to join the Air Force and attend flight school to become a military pilot. He receives a letter that states he's been turned down for admission to an air academy.

    Doug accepts a challenge from another teenager to race along a dangerous canyon: Doug will fly his small Cessna airplane against Knotcher, who will ride a motorcycle. Before the race begins, Knotcher tinkers with Doug's plane's fuel line so that it will stall out in the last stages of the race. Doug is barely able to win the race but starts a fight with Knotcher. Doug later is grounded by his father for acting in such a reckless and stupid manner.

    Doug's father takes a mission to fly reconnaissance over a Middle Eastern country. Though the government there is presumed to be non-hostile, Col. Masters and his wingman are shot down. Masters himself is captured and held prisoner by that country's Minister of Defense, Colonel Nakesh. Nakesh tortures Doug's father and proclaims him a rogue terrorist. He sentences him to death.

    Back at Master's base, the commander informs Doug about his father's capture and that the US State Department plans not to invade the rogue country to rescue his father. Doug is immediately angry, saying that the US government isn't doing enough to help his father, however the base commander tells Doug that their hands are tied but they are continuing to search for a diplomatic solution. Doug talks to an older pilot, a friend of his father's, Col. Charles 'Chappy' Sinclair, who tells Doug to let the government continue their efforts to secure Col. Masters' release. Doug asks Chappy if there's a possibility that a pair of F16s could fly into the hostile country and rescue his father. Chappy says it would be a long shot but also gravely warns Doug not to try it.

    Doug talks to his friends at their clubhouse -- an old, abandoned bunker on the base -- and asks them to help him gather intelligence information on the country and city where his father is being held as well as their military capabilities. Doug and his friends have built an extensive network for themselves around the base and often fool their parents who work around top secret information.

    Doug talks to Chappy again telling him that he can get more information for him to plot a mission to rescue his father. Chappy admires Doug's initiative and, knowing that Doug's father is running out of time quickly, agrees to help him.

    Doug's friends begin to gather the info they need: at one point they set off firecrackers in a main command room, distracting the personnel long enough to gain access to a restricted computer. Chappy guides Doug's crew through the planning process and they formulate a mission to have two, fully-fueled and armed F16s for Doug and Chappy.

    Chappy decides to take Doug up for a test flight to see how well he can do in combat. While they're up, Doug uses a Walkman to play music (Queen's "One Vision" and the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'") he claims gives him the proper rhythm to hit his targets. Chappy harshly tells him to cut the music but Doug insists and proves that his method works and impresses Chappy. The night before they're supposed to leave, Chappy congratulates Doug's crew on a job well done & insists that Doug get some sleep. Doug is defiant but agrees when Chappy tells him that many pilots have died in combat under his command, but they still followed orders.

    Chappy and Doug fly out on the mission, refueling along the flight path. When they reach the coast of the nation where his father was shot down, the two engage in air-to-ground combat with the country's outer defenses. Chappy's plane is hit and crashes. Before he goes down, Chappy tells Doug to continue & play a tape he'd prepared for him. Doug listens to it: Chappy gives him encouragement and tells him to stay focused & he'll be fine. At Nakesh's base, Nakesh himself begins to beat Doug's father in retaliation.

    Doug reaches Nakesh's base and begins an air-to-ground attack that takes out missile and artillery installations. Doug contacts them by radio, bluffing that he's part of a larger force that has come to free his father. When Nakesh won't meet his demands, Doug drops bombs on a nearby oil refinery. Nakesh consents and releases Col. Masters, allowing him to drive to the end of a runway alone in a jeep. Doug is about to land to pick up his father, when a sniper shoots the Colonel in the shoulder. Doug destroys another oil refinery in retaliation, then firebombs the runway to cover his own landing. He meets his father, helps him into the plane and takes off. Low on ammunition, fuel and missiles, Doug engages Nakesh himself in the air. After a brief dogfight, Doug destroys his plane. A small squadron of Nakesh's pilots are waiting for him but bug out when a squadron of American F16s arrives and escorts Doug out of hostile territory. Doug asks the squadron to take up a missing man formation for Chappy, which they gladly do.

    Back in the United States, Doug's father is debriefed and Doug goes to a military hearing to answer for stealing his plane and taking on an unauthorized mission. The tribunal calls in a special witness, who turns out to be Chappy himself, having survived the crash. When Doug is admonished by the base commander, Doug asserts that no one else seemed to be willing to rescue his father. Chappy testifies, saying that he aided Doug and that Doug also needs to learn discipline and that an air academy would be the best place for him to learn. The commander agrees to endorse Doug's application.

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