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Air Force One
4 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Wolfgang Petersen

Written By:
Andrew Marlowe

Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell, William H. Macy, Wendy Crewson, Xander Berkeley, Paul Guilfoyle, Liesl Matthews, Bill Smitrovich, Elya Baskin, David Vadim, Tom Everett, Philip Baker Hall, Spencer Garrett, Donna Bullock

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Air Force One (1997)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
April 27th, 2010

'Air Force One' is a stupendously silly, but totally captivating, action film from Wolfgang Petersen, whose other credits include Das Boot and In the Line of Fire. Harrison Ford plays James Marshall, president of the United States. That alone is enough to sell this movie; Ford offers us a chief executive who is unusually tough, decisive, resourceful, brave, and intelligent; his stirring speech in front of the Russian government, shortly after the capture and arrest of General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow), the dictator of Kazakhstan, announces a radical shift in American foreign policy, acting on moral impulse rather than self-interest, a refusal to negotiate or cooperate with thugs, terrorists, and tyrants. A vow to stop genocide.

It sounds much like what Clinton may have said in the years after the tragedy in Rwanda, when he expressed regret for not intervening, and this lingered in his mind as he watched the situation unfold in the Balkans. Radek is modeled after either Milosevic, or Saddam Hussein, possibly a mixture of both, though we know very little about him. He is more of a symbol for ultranationalist fanatics who want to destroy what they see as the "puppet" regime in Moscow.

A handful of them actually hijack Air Force One, as it embarks on its journey back to the U.S. Now, I think it would be impossible to hijack Air Force One, especially how this group does it, with a little help from one of Marshall's Secret Service agents. It is one of those moments where we have to suspend our disbelief. I mean, really, suspend it.

The main villain is Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman, with a flawless Russian accent), an absolutely ruthless, cold-blooded Radek loyalist, who plans on holding Marshall and his family hostage until Marshall agrees to release Radek. Ivan spouts a lot of quasi-Marxist rhetoric about capitalists in the Kremlin and launching a revolution and ending American imperialism, and he really likes hearing himself talk, which gives Marshall several opportunities to take down single-handedly, Korshunov's entire squad. Marshall, it turns out, is a former soldier and helicopter pilot, and so he can use a gun, and fight with his hands when necessary.

Back in Washington, his staff and military advisers debate how to respond to Ivan's demands, how to appease him and keep him occupied until they can stage some kind of rescue attempt, while minimizing casualties. Tension erupts between VP Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close) and Walter Dean (Dean Stockwell), the Secretary of Defense, who believes he is better qualified to handle the situation. Ford gives a highly effective, convincing performance. Oldman is in full maniac mode, making for a terrific antagonist, whose comeuppance is well-deserved.

Close radiates wisdom and confidence as Bennett, whose unshakable faith in Marshall drives her to support him even as the rest of his Cabinet officials have begun to give up hope. Excellent stuntwork and exhilarating, superbly edited action sequences, and Petersen ratchets up suspense as Marshall moves cautiously through the various areas of the plane, an elaborately constructed, acutely detailed set, with an innately claustrophobic design, and more than a few embellishments, to increase the entertainment value.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is bombastic and riveting. The gradual descent and eventual crash of AF1 into the ocean, a very dramatic and exciting scene, is lacking in realism, since the plane looks, in that particular instance, like a computer-generated image that has not meshed well with its surroundings. Other than that, however, one of the best action pictures of the 90s.

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