It seems putting the president of the United States in perilous situations is commonplace in Hollywood these days. In the past year, Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down have both had story lines involving terrorists attempting to hijack the supposedly impenetrable security of the president. In the late nineties, this was not a common storyline for a film. Air Force One is a brilliant action movie in the same vein as Die Hard and, at the time, it was very original. One thing it also does really well is scale down the patriotism so common in a movie like this. Films such as Independence Day have been criticised in the past for being too ‘yay we’re American’, but Air Force One does a really good job of avoiding this.
Harrison Ford is perfect as President James Marshall. You believe he would be charming enough to win the presidency. As with most presidents, he has some military background which explains how he knows how to fight when terrorist Gary Oldman and his crew take over the titular plane. Oldman is very menacing as leader of the Russian terrorists. He has recently become well known for playing good guys such as Sirius Black and James Gordon in the Batman films, but before that he was almost typecast as a bad guy in films like The Professional and Dracula. He goes up against Ford’s President Marshall and is convincing and sometimes really scary as a Russian terrorist.
The story is not very believable, but who would expect it to be? This is a high octane suspenseful action movie, the plot doesn’t have to be plausible as long as it’s entertaining. In saying that, the crew did their best to make this film as close to the truth as the plot allowed. They had a tour arranged of the real Air Force One before sets were built to ensure there was some semblance of realism.
I noticed Glenn Close also starred as the Vice President and I remember that being a talking point of this film when it was released. It’s funny how 15 years later, there’s a real chance the next US president could be a woman (Hilary 2016???).
This is a great action movie. Its original story and charismatic lead elevates it above other similar films of the genre, as does Oldman’s menacing villain. This was one of Harrison Ford’s last great action films and should be enjoyed.
Air Force One is a movie that could have so easily gone wrong. Instead it is incredibly awesome, and– no joke– kind of plausible.
I know, I know… Some of it is a bit silly. Like the presidential escape pod. First of all, if there is a secret escape pod on Air Force One, wouldn’t it hold two people? Or is the plan to just eject the president alone and hope the military finds him first? (And could you imagine if something resembling an Apollo era command module crashed in your backyard, and the president was inside?)
But some of it seems really spot on. Like the secretary being the only person on the plane who knows that the fax line is separate from the other phone lines. Or when that same secretary then has to send an SOS fax to the vice president before she can parachute to safety, because apparently the president doesn’t know how to work the fax machine.
Seriously though, this is a fun movie to watch, even if it is silly at times. A lot of the credit for this goes to Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. These guys are two of the best actors around, and bring credibility and charisma to the roles of President James Marshall and villain Ivan Korshunov, respectively. The action scenes are entertaining, and the CGI and green screen are OK considering the movie is nearly 20 years old (some scenes have aged better than others). Plus, it contains one of the more memorable film one-liners: “Get off my plane!”
Rating: B+ (Thank goodness there were no snakes on this plane. Indy couldn’t have handled that.)
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