When one sees Glenn Close portraying the vice-president, one begins
to realize just how much she looks (and can act) like Gerald Ford.
Frankly, I was shocked to discover how much I liked AIR FORCE ONE.
Yes, it has villainous Russians who can never see our good guy President
(Harrison Ford) when he's hiding right in front of them (much less shoot
him). Yes, it has Secret Service guys who die at the hand of the enemy
like flies in a bug zapper. Yes, it has the cheesiest special effects
this side of of a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon. Yes, it features a rambling
Gary Oldman in one of his clearly improvised looney-tune
terrorist/psychopath roles. I could go on and on...
But I won't. Instead, I'll tell you that AIR FORCE ONE (DIE HARD
on a plane with a President on it, thus distinguishing it from DIE HARD
II, PASSENGER 57, and EXECUTIVE DECISION) is a spellbinding film, one
that grips the viewer from the very start and doesn't let up until 140
minutes later, plot holes or no. It also may be the funniest movie I've
seen all year -- and I still can't figure out if it was intentional or
And I don't care. AIR FORCE ONE has great action, a good story,
and once you get past the melodramatics of his co-stars, one of Harrison
Ford's best performances, ever. In fact, I'd be so bold as to say that
AF0 is probably the best new film of 1997 to date.
Or maybe I'm just losing my mind.
\ ***** Perfection \
\ **** Good, memorable film \
\ *** Average, hits and misses \
\ ** Sub-par on many levels \
\ * Unquestionably awful \
-Christopher Null / nu...@poboxes.com / Writer-Producer
-Visit the Movie Emporium at http://www.filmcritic.com
-and Null Set Productions at http://www.filmcritic.com/nullset.htm
AIR FORCE ONE
A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): ****
The movie AIR FORCE ONE should require a doctor's approval, for
those with weak hearts may not make it. Just ten minutes into the
movie, my heart was racing and goose pimples had flared up all over my
body. Although there would be brief interludes when I was able to
relax, most of the show found my adrenaline pumping right along with
President James Marshall's. After the show ended I found myself
gasping for breath and trying hopelessly to reconnect with the real
world. I had just been through such an incredible experience that I
found it hard to believe I was sitting in a theater.
The director of AIR FORCE ONE is the great Wolfgang Petersen. His
DAS BOOT is a cinematic masterpiece that blends heart-stopping action
with the story of real people in peril. So it is with AIR FORCE ONE,
easily the best action picture of the year, but thanks to Petersen's
meticulous direction and first-time screenwriter Andrew W. Marlowe's
well laid out script, the human equation is even more compelling. The
intelligent and clever script has enough humor to break the tension
Harrison Ford is the president, and a darn good one, based on this
movie. Ford brings a presence to the office while still imbuing the
character with humanity and fear. President Marshall was a medal of
honor recipient in Vietnam, and Ford uses all of the tricks he learned
in his role as Jack Ryan in the movies based on Tom Clancy's novels.
In short, Ford delivers one of his best performances ever. Next to the
direction, his acting is the second best part of the film.
The story does cause one to suspend disbelief a bit, but the story
as delivered feels plausible even if there are many parts one could
quibble with. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM was full of
ridiculous aspects but that did not detract from its beauty and neither
do the small liberties AIR FORCE ONE takes with the situation.
When Gary Oldman (THE FIFTH ELEMENT) and his entourage enter the
President's plane masquerading as friendly Russian journalists, you
know what will happen. Even if you haven't seen the trailers, an
unlikely situation, you know that Oldman's specialty is bad guys. When
all hell breaks loose in the cabin, knowing it is inevitable does not
lessen the tension one iota.
Petersen can stage action sequences so realistic that they seem to
literally suck the audience into the scene. Ivan Korshunov, the leader
of the Russian dissidents, played by Oldman doing what he does best --
terrorists and lunatics, could not have been better cast. He is
vicious in the action sequences, and chilling in his quieter
confrontations with the first family, underplayed by Wendy Crewson as
the First Lady, Grace, and Liesel Matthews (A LITTLE PRINCESS) as the
First (teenage) Kid, Alice. "You murdered 100,000 Iraqis to save a
nickel a gallon on gas," he shouts at the First Lady. "Don't lecture
me on the articles of war."
"How the hell did this happen?" demands Vice President Kathryn
Bennett (Glenn Close). "How the hell did they get Air Force One?"
Although she seems too stiff at first to be believable -- well, on
second thought, maybe that is plausible -- Close soon finds her footing
and manages to take control of a seemingly intractable situation,
complicated further by the political intrigue within the White House.
When people hesitate to carry out a strange order from the president,
she backs him all the way. "He's not asking," she barks. "The
commander-in-chief issued a direct order. Now do it!"
Dean Stockwell, as Defense Secretary Walter Dean, gives a
beautiful re-enactment of the Alexander Haig role when President Reagan
was shot. "The presidency is bigger than one man," Dean shouts to an
underling not enamored with Dean's idea of shooting down the plane.
"Didn't they teach you that at Yale?"
Once Korshunov gets control of the plane he announces that he will
execute a hostage every 30 minutes unless Communist and Nationalist
leader General Alexander Radek is released from prison. In a tiny but
crucial role Jurgen Prochnow, the U-boat skipper from DAS BOOT, plays
General Radek. The scene of him walking as the Communist
Internationale plays will not soon be forgotten.
Petersen gets so many of the small details perfect. To add to the
authenticity, he has the Russians talk to each other in Russian with
English subtitles, but has Korshunov speak English to the Americans.
In another small detail, he has the president get trapped like a rat in
a maze, not knowing where to turn to escape.
Bravery rarely appears on the screen anymore, bravado having
replaced it. Petersen brings back old fashioned bravery and makes it
credible. Many individuals risk their lives to save their president --
from the first Secret Service agents who whisk the President away when
the firing starts to the ace pilot who puts his plane between a missile
and Air Force One in one of the film's stirring dogfight sequences.
People in my charged-up audience were applauding sporadically
throughout the film. And laughing occasionally at its humor. Easily
the funniest line is Ford's. When one of his aides suggests a
brilliant way out of their predicament, he tells her with a big smile,
"If this works, you get to be Postmaster General." Speaking in
quasi-code, Marshall tells Bennett, "Kathryn, if you give a mouse a
cookie." Understanding his meaning, she completes his sentence, "He's
gonna want a glass of milk."
In a show that never flags for a moment, the endgame does not
disappoint. Although the film is developed into a seamless whole
rather the traditional configuration of setup, body, and conclusion.
The suspense builds and the tension ratchets up until the end. The
critic I was sitting next to, his girlfriend, my wife, and I all let
out a collective, "oh my god" type of sigh when the ending credits
finally rolled. I have not seen a better movie this year.
AIR FORCE ONE runs a blindingly fast 1:58. It is rated R for some
bloody images, but overall I found the violence realistic but never
overdone or gory. The film would be fine for teenagers. I was blown
away by the picture so I give it my strongest recommendation and my top
rating of ****.
**** = A must see film.
*** = Excellent show. Look for it.
** = Average movie. Kind of enjoyable.
* = Poor show. Don't waste your money.
0 = Totally and painfully unbearable picture.
REVIEW WRITTEN ON: July 22, 1997
Opinions expressed are mine and not meant to reflect my employer's.
"Harrison Ford is the President of the United States" trumpet the
print ads for AIR FORCE ONE, to which the only appropriate response is:
well, of _course_ he is. The phenomenally popular presidency of Ronald
Reagan, if nothing else, gave us a solid sense of what the American people
really want in a Chief Executive. They want a cross between John Wayne
and Bill Cosby, someone who can be both America's Sheriff and America's
Father Figure. In short, they want an approachable ass-kicker.
If that phrase doesn't describe Harrison Ford among all A-list
Hollywood stars, I don't know whom it does describe. Ford's James
Marshall, the President imperilled in AIR FORCE ONE when terrorists hijack
the First Plane, is the President every American secretly dreams about --
a resolute leader and devoted family man who also happens to be handy with
an Uzi. Not only would we follow him into battle (and make no mistake, he
_would_ be leading the charge), we'd play a game of touch football with
him on the lawn afterwards.
That kind of man isn't just the perfect President -- he's also the
perfect action hero. AIR FORCE ONE is an extraordinarily effective
thriller by any standard, but it's even better with Ford on board.
Wolfgang Petersen's direction combines the claustrophobia of DAS BOOT with
the cat-and-mouse dynamic of IN THE LINE OF FIRE, then throws in a few
stomach-churning dogfights and mid-air escape attempts just for seasoning.
There hasn't been a more assured piece of technical film-making in
theaters this year, nor a more riveting action spectacle. Ford, however,
moves AIR FORCE ONE from the realm of the mere thrill ride to something
more potent. He gives you the sense that something is at stake: honor,
family, the life of a real human being in danger who is also the President
of the United States.
It is the "honor" part of that equation which may raise a few hackles
over the rah-rah patriot games of AIR FORCE ONE. There is a decidedly
retro-80s feel to the Communist zealots led by Gary Oldman, to the TOP
GUN-style military hot-doggery, to Ford's Rambo-in-pinstripes solo
guerrilla campaign to free hostages. Still, Andrew W. Marlowe's script
never feels jingo all the way. Oldman's performance gives weight to lines
which might sound like token imperialist-bashing in someone else's mouth
(one such line finds him quieting a righteous hostage by screaming "You
killed 100,000 Iraqis so you could save a nickel a gallon on gas...don't
lecture me on the articles of war"). In fact, every performer takes
chances which make AIR FORCE ONE more than a simple crowd-pleaser. The
gutsiest choices may be those made by Glenn Close, playing Vice-President
Kathryn Bennett. In a more pandering film, Bennett would have been the
take-charge woman in a room full of ineffectual men. Instead, Close plays
her as smart but uncertain, dedicated to her President perhaps against all
Not that anyone could blame her. Part of what makes AIR FORCE ONE so
satisfying -- and, at times, so wryly amusing -- is that it places
President Marshall squarely in the real world of 1990s American political
consciousness. The unswerving devotion, the candlelight vigils and the
tremendous popularity all make perfect sense as the reactions of cynics in
the presence of true greatness. It's easy to get caught up in the thrills
of AIR FORCE ONE, not just because it is so well-constructed, but because
we're watching a national fantasy. There's only one thing missing from
the finale of AIR FORCE ONE: Harrison Ford should step onto the tarmac at
Dulles, tip his hat to the assembled throng, sweep the First Lady up onto
his trusty horse, and ride into the sunset.
On the Renshaw scale of 0 to 10 hails to the chief: 9.
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/Air Force One/ requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than most
other summer movies, even ones that feature aliens: we're asked to
believe that people elected to political office are honourable and
really interested in protecting the interests of the people they
represent; we're asked to believe that provinces in the former Soviet
Union still pose a threat to world peace; and most importantly, we're
asked to believe that the President of the United States can, in a
situation of conflict, fight like Han Solo from /Star Wars/.
The plot is simplistic, and would've worked better if the villains
weren't based in the former Soviet Union: Air Force One, the official
air transportation for the President of the United States, is hijacked
by a group of terrorists (it's what the big army calls the little
army). The terrorists, lead by Ivan Korshunov (played ruthlessly by
Gary Oldman) are loyal to Alexander Radek (Jurgen Prochnow), the
self-styled dictator of Khazakstan, who was captured by a joint
operation of the American and Russian forces. Korshunov's demands,
and the eventual outcome of the movie, should be obvious.
Watching this movie, I kept thinking how orthogonal it was to the real
world. The movie I saw the week before, /Contact/, featured clips of
Clinton's speeches, illustrating exactly how vague and vapid his words
are. Here you have President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) making
impromptu speeches that move audiences deeply. Unfortunately, it is
the former world that is reality.
What would've made this movie more realistic is if the same situation
had occurred but someone else other than the President had saved the
plane, held hostage by someone seeking to use its capacity for
destruction. But then it would've started to be more like /Executive
Decision/ or /Die Hard/.
I never understand why in movies the villain tries to justify what
he's doing to some kid. In this case, Korshunov preaches to the
President's daughter (played by Liesel Matthews, who I thought did a
good job). The choice of casting Glenn Close also as Vice President
Kathryn Bennett works well. The thing is that Harrison Ford is a
brilliant actor, one of the best in the business, and his portrayal of
a tough-as-nails President is so convincing that it makes the reality
stand out like a sore thumb.
While the movie is worth watching/renting, I thought it was a bit too
long, and I found the ending escape scene through a wire transfer a
bit unnecessary and hokey. They could've delivered parachutes to Air
Force One. Also the character on board the plane who aids the
terrorists was totally unnecessary and doesn't do much for the movie.
After watching /Air Force One/, I seriously think Ford should run for
President. I can't think of a better campaign ad.
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A Film Review by James Berardinelli
RATING (0 TO 10): 6.0
Alternative Scale: **1/2 out of ****
United States, 1997
U.S. Release Date: 7/25/97 (wide)
Running Length: 2:05
MPAA Classification: R (Violence, profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Cast: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson,
Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy,
Dean Stockwell, Jurgen Prochnow
Directors: Wolfgang Petersen
Producers: Gail Katz and Wolfgang Petersen, Armyan Bernstein and
Screenplay: Andrew W. Marlowe
Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
AIR FORCE ONE is DAS BOOT director Wolfgang Petersen's third major
Hollywood movie to feature a top American star. (For the record, the
previous two are IN THE LINE OF FIRE and OUTBREAK.) One consistent
aspect of Petersen's studio pictures is that he hasn't had any
difficulty getting A-list talent (Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman,
Harrison Ford) to work for him, and there is a reason for this. After
watching AIR FORCE ONE, I am convinced that Petersen is one of the best
action/thriller directors working today. The thing that astonishes me
the most is how much he can cull from so little. Petersen has taken a
script that can best be described as idiotically preposterous and, from
this thin and lame-brained skeleton, has generated a moderately-
entertaining motion picture. In the hands of a hack, AIR FORCE ONE
could have turned into a major embarrassment. As it is, the movie is a
roller coaster ride for those who prefer not to think once the theater
lights have dimmed.
Even the most energetic and original action film is likely to
foster a sense of deja vu. It's the nature of the genre -- after all,
there are only so many ways you can blow things up and stage shoot-outs.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that about 95% of AIR FORCE ONE seems
familiar -- the film is a clear derivative of DIE HARD and EXECUTIVE
DECISION. The twist here is that the action hero isn't a down-on-his-
luck cop or an anti-terrorist PhD, he's the President of the United
States. And, although the script seems to have been written with Steven
Segal in mind, somehow the film makers snagged Harrison Ford. How?
Well, I can think of two possible reasons. First, a big paycheck can
make almost any role look appealing. Second, most American actors
probably crave the opportunity to play the President (look at Ronald
So how does Ford fare as the latest big-screen Commander-in-Chief?
Better than the likes of Bill Pullman (INDEPENDENCE DAY), Ronny Cox
(MURDER AT 1600), and Sam Waterston (THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY), but not up
to the level of Michael Douglas (THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT) or Gene Hackman
(ABSOLUTE POWER). Ford's James Marshall is suitably charismatic and
decisive, but he's too good to be true. He has a code of ethics and,
when he says stomach-churningly saccharine things like "Never again will
I allow political self-interest to deter us from doing what is morally
right," he actually means it. Ford may be a good actor, but not even he
can make us swallow a fantasy character like this.
The storyline is generic. A military partnership between the
United States and Russia has resulted in the capture of the dangerous
and fanatical General Alexander Radek (Jurgen Prochnow, the captain from
DAS BOOT), the self-appointed military dictator of Khazakstan. A group
of terrorists, led by the psychotic Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman), uses
an elaborate ruse to get on board Air Force One for a trans-Atlantic
trip from Moscow to Washington D.C. Once the plane is in the sky,
Korshunov (with a little inside help) takes over. The President
apparently escapes in an emergency pod, but, in reality, he's hiding out
in the luggage compartment, ready to do battle single-handedly with the
six bad guys, who are holding fifty passengers at gun point, including
his wife (Wendy Crewson) and 12-year old daughter (Liesel Matthews).
Back in the United States, the Vice President (Glenn Close) is doing her
best to defuse the situation, but Korshunov is adamant: he will kill
one hostage every half-hour until Radek has been released.
There are numerous occasions during AIR FORCE ONE when Petersen
ratchets the tension up to a level where the viewer is likely to forget
the imbecilic plot contrivances that have gotten the situation to this
point, and just enjoy the action and adventure. Unfortunately, every
time dialogue and plot exposition interrupt the flow, we're reminded of
how implausible the scenario is. On top of that, the film is too long.
The opening setup, which lasts nearly 30 minutes, is plodding (mainly
because it's poorly written). There's a little too much running around
during the middle segment, and the movie's last third features no fewer
than three endings.
The film belongs to Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, both of whom
turn in competent (albeit unexceptional) performances. Neither has to
stretch their range very far, since Ford is adept at playing the strong,
competent hero, and Oldman has become typecast as the slightly-unhinged,
scenery-chewing villain. The supporting cast includes a number of
familiar faces, but, other than Glenn Close, no one has much to do.
William H. Macy, as a member of the President's military entourage, is
I had hoped that Petersen would bring some of the claustrophobic
feel of DAS BOOT to AIR FORCE ONE (after all, both films take place
almost entirely in the isolated confines of a cigar-shaped structure).
However, rather than opting for the slow boil approach, Petersen has
gone for high energy/low intelligence. The result is passably
entertaining, but not a standout. AIR FORCE ONE offers two hours of
flashy, instant gratification. The only lingering effect is the
slightly bad taste that occurs when you expect more from a film than it
Copyright 1997 James Berardinelli
- James Berardinelli
ReelViews web site: http://www.cybernex.net/~berardin
"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."
- Jean Cocteau
For details of my reviewing style, please see the note at the end of
AIR FORCE ONE
Rating: 7.0 and $7.00
AFO held my attention consistently throughout. In fact, several times
I found myself gasping for air as I got caught up in the action. This is
a (perhaps surprisingly) solid action flick during a fairly sluggish
Harrison Ford is great. You believe, for every second, that he really
is the President. He not only displays bravery and courage, but also a
human side we sometimes forget our leaders have. Almost completely absent
from this movie, unlike certain others in his past, were the moments when
he would try to pretend that he was frightened, but instead just looked
confused and lost. In AFO, you actually believe he is scared turdless.
Gary Oldman is a very convincing terrorist. The radicalism he
conveyed made me, in some instances, so scared I was nervous and fidgety.
His character is the kind of guy you are afraid could be a real terrorist:
nutty, but intelligent and focused.
Now come the parts where I complain. Glenn Close is a horrible
Vice-President. Through the whole movie she looked old and tired, like
she couldn't wait to run off the set and jump into the jacuzzi. I was
very, very glad when her short bits were over and we could get back to the
crisis at hand.
Liesel Matthews was similarly a horrible First Brat. She displayed
very limited acting capabilities. During every scene where she was called
upon to display a serious emotion, it always seemed like she was reading
the lines from a paper and grinning. I didn't believe she was scared. I
believed, instead, that she was excited by the terrorists threatening to
kill her. Either that or she was too airheaded to understand what was
happening around her. (A replacement that immediately comes to mind would
have been Hillary Wolf, but I guess she's a little old now to play a 12
Ignoring these two lame performances, this film is thoroughly
enjoyable and suspenseful, so you should see it.
My #1 rule in reviewing is: NO SPOILERS. Instead of discussing the
plot, I choose instead to discuss performances, believability,
entertainment value, etc. If you want the plot, see the movie.
I give two ratings: An arbitrary scale of enjoyability (1 to 10) and
a maximum price I would pay to see the movie.
Harrison Ford is the President of the US, James Marshall. And as the name
somewhat suggest, he is somewhat like a cowboy.
In a team effort between the US and Russia, the leader of rebellious
Kazakhstan is captured. The President is in Moscow giving a speech and
taking a stand against terrorism. After the speech, the President boards
Air Force One and this is where the fun starts.
The movie opens with the capturing of the Kazakhstan leader. This sequence
opens the film with a bang, and sets the mood for the rest of the film.
The film is packed with action, and surprisingly, most of it is well done
and takes place on Air Force One. This is surprising because of the tight
quarters that the surrounds the action. Some sequences that are of the
wow-factor are the refueling plane, the many gunfights, the C-140 sequence,
and the sequences with the F-15s.
As the plane is being hijacked, the President is put into an escape pod and
ejected. But this would be too easy of a solution. The President, with
the motivation to save his wife and daughter, stays on the plane,
unbeknownst to the terrorists.
Gary Oldman plays the terrorist. He is a hard communist and wants to
reinstate Communism to Russia. He and a team of men take over Air Force
One and threaten the Vice President (Glenn Close) and Defense Secretary
(Dean Stockwell). Their threat is that if the leader of Kazakhstan is not
released, then one hostage will be eliminated each half-hour.
The story moves quickly, and the action is spectacular. There are some
minor details that bugged me, but not much. The terrorists are near blind
and the President has a great shot. The load of weapons on Air Force One
is incredible and somewhat easily accessible. And for one minor character
we never do learn his motivation.
Ford, like always, is a joy to watch. He gives a great performance in Air
Force One. Oldman does a good job at his part also. He is as much, and
maybe a little more intense than Ford. Wolfgang Petersen, who directed
Clint Eastwood in The Line of Fire, does a great job of building tension
and creating dazzling action. There is one character, which I won't name,
that is like the wrench in the wheel. And this character lives almost to
the end of the movie. All of this time making you wonder what the
character is going to do. I loved how this character was used, although
sparingly, in the film.
Air Force One is a late comer to the summer action movie territory, but it
makes up for this by being one of the most exciting films of this summer.
The action in Air Force One never really goes into the yeah-right category,
but is always in the wow-and-ouch category. Air Force One is a must-see
movie. And when you walk out of the theatre, you too will be saying like
me, "I'm proud to be an American!"
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Air Force One -- Hail to the Chief
Blending the action-gripping essence of Die Hard and the claustrophobic
intensity of Executive Decision, the resulting elixir is a potent mixture
in the form of Air Force One. Being such, it is a high-flying adventure
that offers a lot of roller-coaster style excitement in this airborne
Harrison Ford stars as the President of the United States. After Russian
terrorists (led by the sinister Gary Oldman) somehow board the world's
most advanced and secure airplane, they eventually overtake the
presidential plane and hold everyone hostage, including several chiefs of
staff, a bevy of secret service agents, and the president's family. In
exchange for the safe release of the hostages, the terrorists demand that
the Russians release a recently captured military General, who was
imprisoned for heinous acts of tyranny while in power.
It is an extraordinarily high price to pay for the hostages safety. Not
only do the Russians not want to release a madman that could undermine
the stability of the Russian government, but the leadership at home, led
by Glenn Close as a formidable Vice-President and Dean Stockwell as a
must-take-action Secretary of Defense, also vehemently stands by
America's principle to not negotiate with terrorists. However, if his
demands are not met, he will execute one hostage every 30 minutes.
Air Force One doesn't really amount to anything more than a simple story
about the good guys trying to retake the plane and defeat the terrorists.
But it is the caliber of the actors and the fine ingredients thrown into
the movie recipe that makes this summer fare worth sampling. Ford is
reliably charismatic as the President -- stern and tough, but still
vulnerable when faced with decisions of the heart. Ford becomes the
anchor for all that is American; all that is good; all that is just ˜ and
will die for his country. Oldman plays his character with delicious
intent as a psychotic militant bent on carrying out his demands. Oldman
is the anchor of future Russia (at least as he sees it). He is equally
willing to die for his beliefs as well.
Additionally, the movie incorporates several excitement-heightening
components that keeps you at the edge of your seat. There is the
constant cat and mouse chase through the tight confines of the airplane.
There is constant ingenuity displayed as the adrenaline-rushed good guys
try to find different ways to free the hostages or to land the plane.
But most of all, there is no doubt that of all the protagonists of the
summer, there is no one worth rooting for more than the President (and
America) -- the embodiment of truth, justice and the American way. And,
it was also interesting to see the capabilities of Air Force One, loaded
with sophisticated gadgetry and advanced military technology.
Yet, despite this generally, excitingly, executed storyline, you'll find
that the ending was somewhat of a letdown given all that had transpired
as you question the motivations behind one of the main characters. So
much so, in fact, that it slowed much of the momentum as the movie wound
to a close. Nonetheless, the fast-paced action, the fine all-around
performances, and the sheer enjoyment value of the film earned its wings.
I salute this fine summer offering.
A movie review by Walter Frith
If you watch Wolfgang Petersen's 1993 film 'In the Line of Fire'
starring Clint Eastwood as a veteran Secret Service agent you will see in the
closing credits that the film crew actually had support from the authentic
United States Secret Service in making that film. I want to say from the
start that Wolfgang Petersen's latest film 'Air Force One' is a decent one
and while it isn't a let down, it certainly wasn't as good as some of the
advance reviews I read and the hype that was built up around it.
Having said that, 'Air Force One' looks to be in contradiction with 'In
the Line of Fire' in the sense that the breakdown of security is a suspicious
one in dealing with the preservation and safety of the world's most powerful
man, the President of the United States. Certainly it is possible for the
President of any country to fall victim to the violent actions of one or many
predators but you won't believe the ease with which the President's life is
put in danger in this film.
Harrison Ford plays the President with integrity and credibility and his
plane, Air Force One, is hijacked by a Russian terrorist squad whose leader
(Gary Oldman) is a vengeful squirt who blames the U.S. for the decaying moral
fibre in the now capitalist Russia as well as what he feels are many of the
other unjust situations around the world. The President's staff and his
family are in constant danger as well and the entire situation is monitored
back at the White House by the Vice President (Glenn Close) and a staff of
military brass, bureaucrats and other observers.
I wanted to see Harrison Ford battle the terrorists with his brain
rather than with his muscle (and a few automatic weapons to be sure) and the
cliches the film shows are somewhat tiresome and not very exciting. Some how
when you see a film like this you know the outcome before the first half hour
is up and 'Air Force One' overall lacks freshness in its presentation.
With all that in mind, it is a decent way to spend two hours in a movie
theatre as long as your expectations aren't too high and I can't think of too
many other actors in their mid 50's (Ford is 55) that could pull off the role
of a President with the physical prowess that Ford has since his character is
also a combat veteran and medal of honor winner. Everyone else in the cast
is good and you'll probably like 'Air Force One' better when it's been over
for five minutes in comparison to thinking about it an hour later.
OUT OF 5> * * * 1/2
It is interesting how hard it is for film makers not
to make the same films they or others made in the past.
Director Wolfgang Petersen turns Gary Oldham into John
Malkovich's character from _In the Line of Fire_, almost
investing him with the same attitudes and speeches. Then
he tries to make sense out of the airplane like he did in the
submarine of _Das Boot_.
Then he takes the arrogance of the President's
speech about terrorists should be very afraid, and turns
it on him by making him choose between his family and
political suicide. And that's only in the previews!!!
Of course, there is moral cause injected...Oldham
tells one of the people he holds hostage that he will not take
moral instruction from a nation that killed 100,000 Iraqis, but
it passes like no one really meant it anyway. Movies like this
like having moral clauses in them, but they must be passed
over quickly before the audience starts having real moral qualms
themselves about all the killing (the President gets to kill with
But the formula is lifted from the Arnold /John Maclain/
Steven Seagal movies. They are put in an alien environment by
some form of treachery, then assorted atrocities are committed,
they begin to make inroads while passing through all sorts of
troubles, are captured, and by some superhuman effort of will
(which of course means shedding their own blood) they manage
to free themselves and then reverse the situation. The openings
come from James Bond movies, as do the endings, replete with
memorable statements as the killers are dispatched.
What is corrupt about this is that he gets to make two
right choices which are contrary to one another (notice I didn't
say contradictory), and get away with it. That is what the
audience loves eventually. Then when the trouble is dispatched
Lotte Lenya (or someone else) comes back to kill Bond, while
some other fatal threat is hanging over them.
Ford is our Gary Cooper or late Bob Mitchum these
days. It is about his presence, not about his acting. He said
on a talk show, he didn't want to change his clothes for the
film, that they should show the changing circumstances. I
think that was the right choice, since they change more than
he does in the movie. What ever happened to the Ford of _The
Mosquito Coast_ or _Presumed Innocent_ or even _A Clear and
And the explosions? They write plots with explosions
in them so dark screens can go yellow and orange. Who says
abstract art is not pop art?
It is all annoyingly pleasant. It is all about money and
technique, and built for an audience for whom moral questions
are problems occasionally for politics and business, but never
the popular art. But it does have its moments, such as when
Ford has to read the instructional manual in order to make a
cel phone call. It might one of the few moments of truth in the
Gerald E. Forshey
Air Force One (1997)
A movie review by Michael J. Legeros
Copyright 1997 by Michael J. Legeros
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Cast Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson,
Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley,
William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, Jurgen Prochnow
MPAA Rating "R" (presumably for violence and profanity)
Running Time 125 minutes
Reviewed at The Carmike 7, Raleigh, NC (25JUL97)
Well, once again, a summer movie has surprised me. This time, it's
AIR FORCE ONE, which is the long-sit of the season that *I* didn't see
coming. As the trailers have trumpeted for the last six months, Har-
rison Ford plays President Ass Kicker, a Chief Executive who has to make
like Kurt Russell making like Steven Seagal making like Bruce Willis,
when *his* plane is hijacked by Russian loyalists. (The Commander in
Chief is hurried into the escape pod, but chooses to hang around, be-
cause his wife and daughter are still aboard and, friends, that's one
family you just don't go messin' with.) Director Wolfgang Petersen (IN
THE LINE OF FIRE, DAS BOOT) is a bonafide master of claustrophobic com-
bat, I'll give him that. We're always aware of the bad guys, no matter
what curtain they're hiding behind. (Is the President's 747 really that
big on the inside?) And, with the help of visual effects supervisor
Richard Edlund, Petersen also pulls off a couple of breathtaking aerial
sequences. (An aborted landing at Ramstein Air Base is an early show
stopper. Cool crash trucks, too.)
The problem-- well, one of them-- is that Petersen serves up a few
too many crises. Three too many, to be exact. Sure, the action, when
it finally gets rockin' and rolling, is a welcome relief to a talky
first hour. But do we really need to wrap with attacking fighters *and*
an aerial rescue *and* one last, lurking bad guy? Sigh. The ending
also boasts the weakest special effects in the movie, including some
obviously computer-generated water wonders. (All of which, like the
rest of the scenes, are accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith's head-pounding
score. Please pass the aspirin.) Another big botch is the choice of
villains. Really, the motives of the terrorists-- whose soft-spoken
leader (Gary Oldman) seeks the release of an imprisoned general-- are as
patriotic as any American character in the movie. They've just chosen a
more violent means to their end. (Well, almost. As Oldman's character
takes pains to point out, the United States is quite fond of murder when
it comes to protecting *their* interests. And "snap" goes another bad
guy's neck.) All in all, AIR FORCE ONE gives a convincing illusion of
being the most believable and ably constructed of the summer stock.
Watch with your eyes open, however, and you might agree that it's just
one more dumb, loud blockbuster.
Mike Legeros - Movie Hell