Air Force One (1997)


Harrison Ford stars as the American president in this ‘Die Hard on a plane’ riff directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Outbreak). When a team of old Soviet Union terrorists led by Gary Oldman take over Air Force One, Ford makes them think he escaped, when he’s actually still on board and planning a surprise attack. Back at the White House, Glenn Close plays the vice-president, trying to de-escalate the situation. Meanwhile, the secretary of defense (Dean Stockwell) urges Close to join the cabinet in declaring Ford temporarily unfit for office because of a conflict with his national duty — his wife and daughter are on board the plane.

This kind of summer action movie requires a certain degree of suspension of disbelief. I can’t imagine many presidents being allowed by secret service to perform their own stunts, so to speak. But Harrison Ford and director Petersen bring their own sort of verisimilitude to the movie. If you run with them, you’ll enjoy a good popcorn munching thrill ride. Ford is always a reliable hero and Oldman certainly knows how to be terrifying, but I especially enjoyed seeing Close and Stockwell in the war room, making the most of their smaller but compelling roles. Highlights include the terrorist hijacking of the plane — probably the most exciting sequence in the movie from a staging and editorial point of view — and the rescue of hostages by a cable connected between two planes at high altitude. The early computer-generated imagery doesn’t hold up very well, but Jerry Goldsmith provides an exciting, unabashedly patriotic score — the grand, romantic kind that you just don’t hear anymore these days.

With William H. Macy, Wendy Crewson, Xander Berkeley, Philip Baker Hall, and Jurgen Prochnow.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound, Film Editing

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