Air Force One (1997)

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Well, I could push my luck here and try to label Air Force One as an entertaining political thriller but everyone already knows, I think, that it’s just an enjoyable action romp that happens to use the President Of The United States as the lead character. Yet I can’t help but point out that the film does take the very same stance that the character of the President does and it’s a very pro-American attitude rallying people into supporting whatever is needed in “The War On Terror”. Anyway, let’s get to the simple action stuff.

Harrison Ford is the President. You already know that this film is going to be great. What’s more, he’s the kind of President that all Americans probably wish for at times. He’s decisive, he’s willing to risk unpopularity for the greater good and he can kick ass (as we see later in the film). Also, he’s Harrison bloody Ford. After giving a speech emphasising that America will not negotiate with terrorists and how those trying to scar the free world should be very afraid, the President gets on Air Force One and tries to unwind for a short time in between more major decision making. Things are well and truly turned upside down when Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman) and his cohorts take over command of the plane and make their demands for the release of an imprisoned General (Jurgen Prochnow). With his wife and daughter on the plane, as well as a lot of people that he has worked with for years, the President is not about to run away from this threat. He has to back up his words with action.

I’ve always had a problem with movies set on aeroplanes. I just don’t think that they make the best environments for thrillers and action movies. In Die Hard, it was easy to believe that one man could evade a bunch of armed men for the duration of a movie. It’s a lot trickier on an aeroplane. Of course, there are exceptions. Turbulence is a lot of fun. And this movie here is very good.

Director Wolfgang Petersen gets a lot of the credit. The man who made, arguably, the greatest submarine movie ever (Das Boot) really knows how to weave and wind his way through the interior of a craft. He’s also blended action and thrills with a touch of politics when he directed the superb In The Line Of Fire. Air Force One may not be as good as either of those movies but it’s a solid film that manages to keep a fairly serious tone throughout and paces things perfectly with the action beats from start to finish. Andrew W. Marlowe wrote the script and it’s nice to find an action movie of this kind that isn’t just full of witty one-liners and flippant soundbites (though one line, in particular, is definitely there as nothing more than a required crowd-pleaser).

Then we have the cast, each and every one of them being pretty damn perfect. Harrison Ford is as great as ever (I’m a fan of the man and always will be) and Gary Oldman does brilliantly in his villainous role. Goodies and baddies are represented by a mix of familiar faces – Paul Guilfoyle, Glenn Morshower (in a very small role), William H. Macy, Xander Berkeley, Andrew Divoff and Donna Bullock. Wendy Crewson and Liesel Matthews are just fine as, respectively, the First Lady and the daughter in peril and Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell and Philip Baker Hall do well as the people on the ground trying to judge the situation and figure out the best way to maintain the chain of command.

It’s by no means an unmissable film but Air Force One holds up as a smart action movie that somehow feels much more potent now (in a post-9/11 world) than it did back in 1997.

DIRECTOR: WOLFGANG PETERSEN
WRITER: ANDREW W. MARLOWE
STARS: HARRISON FORD, GARY OLDMAN, GLENN CLOSE, WENDY CREWSON, LIESEL MATTHEWS, WILLIAM H. MACY, PAUL GUILFOYLE, DEAN STOCKWELL, PHILIP BAKER HALL, XANDER BERKELEY, ANDREW DIVFOFF, DONNA BULLOCK
RUNTIME: 124 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA, GERMANY

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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