Air Force One (1997)

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, Harrison 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 loyal-
ists.  (The Commander in Chief is hurried into the escape pod, but 
chooses to hang around, because 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 combat, 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 in-
side?)  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 Jer-
ry Goldsmith's head-pounding score.  Please pass the aspirin.)  An-
other 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.  (Rated "R"/125 min.)

Grade: B
Copyright 1997 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: July 27, 1997

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