Wolfgang Petersen (1997, Columbia Tristar)
Starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, and William H.
The US President attempts to thwart terrorists aboard the
View Count: Twice
February 19th, 2001 on TV
A fun action movie, which addresses most of the issues that the
audience would bring up. Unfortunately, a lack of motivation, a weak
ending, and a mixed performance by Harrison Ford can't raise it above
simply "good" and "fun".
Make no mistake; I truly did enjoy this movie. The bad guys were ruthless, and pulled no punches. The good guys couldn't do anything until they knew the president was operating on his own. And President Marshall did a good job at out-thinking his opponents.
Unfortunately, Ford can't seem to do an action movie where he doesn't look like
Indiana Jones. Every time he jumps a guy, or dives for a gun, it looks like the scene came straight from his Indy movies, which have an air of comedy about them. He was
completely unconvincing as a guy who won medals as a combat veteran in Vietnam. How long should it take him to brake a man's neck, even if he's been out of
practice for 30 years?
On the other hand, his frustration at having to let a woman die because he can't afford to give himself up is extremely well done. His knowledge of policies and the idea to phone the White House using the satellite feed were well used.
For most of the movie, it's a cat and mouse game between Marshall and the Russians, who want a Communist leader released from prison. The First Lady and their daughter are brought up to the command level of the airplane, so that when the hostages are finally freed, as the fuel tanker begins refueling them (the hostages get to parachute out), the President still has to remain on the plane. We never get to know the real fate of the hostages, though, since they
'chuted out over enemy territory.
We also never get to know the motivation of the Secret Service agent who turned on them, allowing the take-over of the plane in the first place. It would have been nice if he hadn't pulled a gun on the President at the end, and remained anonymous, since there was no way an investigation could have revealed him. And how was he going to explain why he got out of the plane, instead of the President? For that, he would undoubtedly been put to death.
The capabilities of the plane were nicely shown. The locked cockpit was entered a little too easily, but it was nice to see that the pilots were willing to give their lives to get the plane on the ground. It was also nice to see Marshall's advisor, and William H. Macy's character willing to die for him. Macy is always very convincing in his characters. I liked the way the countermeasures worked, though they ran out of them way too soon.
I loved the air fight. The way the pilots went in to save their President, especially how one took a missile to save Air Force One, was terrific. Those MiG's never stood a chance!
I have a couple more complaints, but they are character flaws, and not necessarily flaws in the story. Would the Vice President have been so wimpy if they had made her into a man? Somehow I'm not certain.
It seems like a writers thing. Or are all Vice-Presidents this wimpy? There should have been no hesitation in either destroying the plane or refusing to release the prisoner.
The other complaint is in the weakness of the President himself. I think the point the movie is trying to make (if any) is that it's easy to declare war on terrorism, as long as the terrorists are not
targeting you. Merely hours after his announcement that terrorists would not be tolerated, his family was put in danger, and he was willing to violate his new policy. As a person, I understand. There was no way he could allow harm to come to his family. But as President, he should have known that he had to sacrifice them as he sacrificed the PR woman earlier. Like I said above, he didn't look like someone who had known heavy combat in Vietnam.
He just got lucky that the Russian security guards were able to get to the
released prisoner before he escaped.
Aside from those complaints, the movie was quite intense, and moved along at a brisk pace. The conversations on the ground were a little annoying, in that there was a lot of standing around, talking to the press when they should have been trying some rescue, but the scenes on board Air Force One were well performed, for the most part.
There is a better hijack movie out there, though. Executive Decision is something really intense, and even more fun than this one.