a critiQal film review Air Force One (1997)

Plot: Air Force One, the president’s airplane, has been hijacked. On board are President James Marshall (Ford), the First Lady (Crewson) and their daughter (Matthews). While Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Close) tries to deal with the terrorists’ demands at the White House, Marshall must do whatever he can to stop terrorist leader Ivan Korshunov (Oldman) on the plane.

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  • ...Harrison Ford leads an exceptional cast through a film that will keep the adrenaline pumping!

This has been one of those DVDs I’ve been wanting to get since I got myself a DVD player. I kept holding out, thinking they would surely re-issue Air Force One in a special 2-disc collector’s edition, but they never have. When I saw it for cheap the other day, I just couldn’t resist, and snatched it up immediately. So, without all the flashy special features, is it still worth owning Air Force One? You betcha.

The cast of characters is excellent. Harrison Ford epitomizes the president everyone wants to have in this film: smart, brave, willing to put his political career on the line to make things right, the loving husband, the perfect father. Whatever it takes, he’ll do it – just to make sure that truth, honesty and the American Way are shown to be the real qualities of a hero – er, president.

Sure, his character is really fake, but even when he has a cheesy line to deliver, Harrison somehow manages to do it with such feeling you believe him anyway. It’s pretty impressive, and not something you see in actors every day (In fact, I once believed if you had Harrison Ford in your film, no matter how bad the plot or the dialogue or the special effects, the movie would work anyway, just because of him – then I saw Six Days, Seven Nights, and knew that just wasn’t the case).

Ford brings such amazing depth to any role he tries, it’s no wonder he’s so successful. He makes you want to believe in his (usually) Utopian characters, and you do – without even making a conscious decision to do so.

Harrison’s not alone in this film either, in terms of good acting. You’ve got good ol’ William H. Macy (who really hit the big-time with Fargo (1996)), whose stoic character stands by his President, no matter what. Despite that simple role to fulfill, William H. Macy brings more to his character in the film, creating someone who the viewer comes to like.

Gary Oldman, who was simply amazing in The Professional (1994), turns in a decent performance as a villain the viewers will love to hate as well. True, it’s not his best performance (far from it), but he does perform decently enough to keep his scenes flowing smoothly.

Glenn Close, as the female Vice President, does a decent job in her role as well, and really seems to be weighing the difficult decisions she has to make, and even “Quantum Leap”‘s Dean Stockwell turns in a pretty good performance.

With the fear of plane hijackings since 9/11, this movie might be less watched recently. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying it, though. This, like plane hijacking movie Passenger 57 (1992), relies solely on action/adventure to tell it’s story, and you’ll be rooting for Marshall the whole way through. There are a few tense moments, but overall the film is pretty much a root-for-the-hero type of film, which we all need every once in a while.

If we didn’t, how would you explain the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in the 80’s? Or even Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones character? We need some fun action films every so often, and that’s what Air Force One strives to be. Plain and simple.

The special effects are a little hokey, considering how far we’ve come since this movie was made in 1997. The plane sequences do have a tendency to look a bit too computer animated, but they don’t really detract from the film. They may seem hokey, but Harrison Ford’s too perfect character seems hokey too. They seem to go together in this film. That isn’t the case with more serious films, but we’re talking strictly action-packed fun here.

Most likely, by the time you finish watching Air Force One, you’ll be thinking “Now that’s the kind of president we need!” After you calm down from the adrenaline rush of the film, however, try to keep those impeachment thoughts out of your head. Just keep telling yourself “it’s just a movie, a guy that perfect doesn’t exist, it’s just a movie….” and you should be okay. If that doesn’t work, fast forward to the end of the credits and read the disclaimer. You know, the one that says “The characters and incidents portrayed…are fictitious, and any similarity to the…characters or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.”

At least for now, you can pick up the Air Force One DVD, and watch it over and over again – until the perfect president does finally come along – or until the Special Edition DVD is finally made available.

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