This Executive Decision was a poor one
It seems that during the mid 90's a lot of movies chose planes as a setting for action thriller romps with the likes of "Con Air" and "Turbulence" being just a couple. Another to set itself on a plane was the 1996 movie "Executive Decision" starring Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal along with a range of other recognizable faces. For the most "Executive Decision" is your run of the mill action/thriller romp with a lot of predictable ness about it and it's not till the final 15 minutes or so does it really deliver the excitement you would want and expect from this sort of movie. Not good considering that "Executive Decision" is 127 minutes long and so there is plenty of time where it appears to lull in mediocrity.
When terrorists take over a commercial flight heading for Washington D.C. holding the passengers to ransom in return for the release of their leader, intelligence agent David Grant (Kurt Russell - Tombstone) believes it may be a cover for something more sinister and convinces the military that there may be a bomb on the plane destined for Washington. With the aid of a special plane designed to attach to planes in mid flight, a crack group of anti-terrorists along with Grant board the commercial flight aiming to recapture it from the terrorists and defuse the bomb before it's too late.
Fundamentally "Executive Decision" doesn't really deliver anything really new, we have terrorists, we have hostages and a bomb except it's on a commercial plane flying over the Atlantic. Where it tries to be a bit different is that we get a group of special ops who manage to board the plane mid flight, but then other than that little bit of uniqueness it is for the most formulaic and predictable.
Now I am no engineer or into modern technologies but the way the special ops manage to board the plane feels unbelievable and to be frank a bit laughable. There may be actual technology which allows them to couple one plane to another but in the movie it really doesn't work, playing for effect rather than realism. This is just one of the many outrageous moments which feature in "Executive Decision" and in many ways spoil the movie because they don't deliver the adrenalin and excitement that they're designed to do, rather cause amusement in being so ridiculously over the top. Which brings me onto the climax one which is extremely predictable because the movie sets it up within the first 15 minutes. Again it's that over the top element which detaches itself from reality and delivers big but not believable with more than a touch of the corny, especially with the dialogue.
The biggest problem which "Executive Decision" faces is in its length with nearly the first hour spent building up back story for all the characters which isn't entirely necessary. Then it spends the next 45 minutes trying to drum up some excitement on the plane but failing because it's all too formulaic with typical moments of drama cropping up exactly when you expect them. It's not until the last 15 minutes that "Executive Decision" manages to actually deliver and ignoring the actual over the top ending, the few scenes which precede it actually are full of action, excitement and general thrills, although again they are spoilt with unnecessary cheesy dialogue.
One of the strangest aspects of "Executive Decision" is that it is billed as a Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal movie, yet Steven Seagal barely appears in it. Sorry if this spoils things for you but Seagal has only one trademark scene where he gets to flex his muscles and then before the movie hits the half way mark he disappears. It's not a great loss to be honest because before he disappears he is barely in the movie and in those few scenes he does appear in doesn't add anything to it other than his name.
As for Kurt Russell well he does his best to lead "Executive Decision", but for the most looks uncomfortable and uneasy as the unlikely hero. It's not until those final scenes does he actually appear to get into the movie delivering an injection of action as well as character to make it interesting. The same can be said for the rest of the cast with John Leguizamo as Captain Rat being very much a tough talking cliche, whilst Halle Berry seems to only be there in body and not in mind. Probably the worst of them all is Oliver Platt who is miscast as engineer Dennis Cahill who is nearly impossible to take seriously as he tries to deliver drama yet coming across unintentionally funny.
It is documented that there were issues whilst filming "Executive Decision" with Steven Seagal holding up filming over the way things go for his character, whilst Kurt Russell didn't take kindly to John Leguizamo adlibbing. The issues show in the actual movie, with an uneasy tension appearing between many of the stars and a sense of just wanting to get through the shoot rather than trying to make it a better movie. It certainly spoils the movie and is one of the reasons why it seems quite dragged out.
The only saving grace comes in the form of David Suchet who does a good job with his terrorist Nagi Hassan. It's a performance which demonstrates Suchet's class making Nagi calculated and frightening but not going over the top by making him a crazed lunatic. It's just a shame that the movie didn't spend more time focussing on his performance than the others.
What this all boils down to is that "Executive Decision" whilst not a terrible movie is very much your below par action/thriller romp which resides firmly in being both predictable and over the top. It's certainly over long and for the most fails to deliver that adrenalin rush you would hope for but it has its moments which save it from being entirely mediocre.