Air Force One (1997)
President Ford Kicks Butt
Nobody does this to the United States. The President will get his baseball glove back and play catch with this guy's balls! - General Northwood
On face value "Air Force One" is another one of those outrageous action thrillers which take you on a roller coaster ride of the preposterous and in a bit of patriotism the US President is forced into a one on one fight with terrorists when it becomes personal. It's the sort of movie which I generally dislike, because of all the utter over the top nonsense as well as the heavy patriotism. But "Air Force One" is different, it's different because director Wolfgang Petersen has managed to get some solid performances from its A-list stars including Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Glenn Close which strangely gives the movie a sort of respect making all the outrageous nonsense seem quite reasonable, even a little plausible, well sort of.
After making a major speech in Moscow President James Marshall (Harrison Ford - Working Girl) along with the First Lady (Wendy Crewson - The Santa Clause) and their daughter, board Air Force One for the long flight home. But their journey is disrupted when the plane is taken over by terrorists, lead by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman - True Romance), who boarded the presidential plane pretending to be journalists. Their plans are to force The President into releasing recently captured General Redek (Jurgen Prochnow), but in the midst of their hijacking it appears that The President has managed to escape through the emergency pod. It only appears so and the heroic President is still on board the plane with a plan of saving his family and regaining control.
To be blunt the storyline to "Air Force One" is neither clever nor original, think of any action movie set on a plane which involves terrorists/criminals and you will get a gist for what the movie delivers. The only difference is that the hero this time around is a very patriotic President and husband who has to take on the terrorists. Even the supposedly emotional side of the First Lady and daughter being held by the terrorists adds little to the movie and neither does the supposed drama back at the Whitehouse where the Vice President has to decide whether to take control of things or not.
What this all means is that "Air Force One" is very much an action movie and not much else. It's not a bad one either despite various outrageous action scenes such as the President ordering an air strike on his own plane so he can disarm a terrorist. I say it's not a bad one because director Wolfgang Peterson actually has a good grip on the storyline, delivering that roller coaster ride of thrills and spills which make it all surprisingly entertaining, especially for those just looking for a no brainer movie, but never stooping to allow it to become one big blast after another. He manages to deliver some storyline in between all the various action sequences and although there are no major twists he still manages to keep you entertained through raw excitement.
But the big reason why "Air Force One" works is the casting, most significantly that of Harrison Ford as the patriotic and heroic President James Marshall. It's hard not to like Ford and this combined with his ability to make over the top action and dialogue seem acceptable is why he was the perfect choice to lead the movie. When he is forced to decide between bowing to the terrorist's demands or saving his family you can honestly see the inner turmoil of a proud protective man. Although as the movie spirals to an outrageous climax I was struggling not to laugh when Ford had to deliver some dialogue which I swear was in homage to "Star Wars".
Whilst Harrison Ford does a great job of playing the action hero, Gary Oldman is superb as lead terrorist Ivan Korshunov. Delivering the calculated nature of a leader but also that deranged mind which also makes him menacing, it is as powerful a performance as that of Ford's. As well as Ford and Oldman the rest of the cast are no slouches either with Wendy Crewson doing a good turn as the First Lady, Glenn Close as Vice President Kathryn Bennett, Dean Stockwell as the scheming Defence Secretary Walter Dean and also William H. Macy cropping up as Major Caldwell. It's hard to fault a single performance to be honest with the lead characters making what could have been another dumb action flick something more by just their presence alone.
What this all boils down to is that "Air Force One" is quite simply an outrageous action flick with a storyline which is in essence no different to any other action movie set on a plane. What makes it that little bit better is the star cast featuring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Glenn Close as well as the tight grip on proceedings by director Wolfgang Peterson delivering the roller coaster ride of action which you would expect. it's not clever or in the least bit complex, but it is entertaining.
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