Harrison Ford makes for an unusual action hero. He's getting a little
long in the tooth to be playing action heroes, but in Air Force One, he
pulls it off, probably for the last time. Well, that's probably a little
unfair, seeing that Sean Connery was playing James Bond even as recently
as 1983. Anyway, in the context of the plot, having Ford portray a reluctant
action hero is not a bad choice.
Force One (1997)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and
The movie opens with President
James Marshall (Ford) delivering an intense, anti-terrorism speech at
a Moscow dinner reception. The reception was
to celebrate the capture of General Alexander Radek (Jurgen Prochnow),
a dictator who had slaughtered some 200,000 people inside a former Soviet
state. But, Marshall takes the opportunity to lament the fact that it
took so long for him to be stopped, even in the face of the slaughter
of so many innocent people. He proclaims a "zero-tolerance" policy
that will prevent any negotiation with any terrorist for any reason.
After the speech, Marshall boards Air Force One, the President's high-tech
plane, along with a group of supposed Russian journalists led by Ivan
Korshunov (Gary Oldman). As the plane lifts off from Russia, the journalists
reveal themselves to be terrorists and assume control of the plane from
the inside -- a scenario that had never been thought of by security experts
in Washington. Korshunov demands that General Radek be released or the
terrorists will execute a hostage every half hour.
The President is supposed to be whisked off the plane by escape pod,
but, since his family is still trapped somewhere else on the plane, he
refuses to leave. This President is going to fight for his family and
country. How patriotic.
Force One has a lot going
for it in sheer star power. Ford is good as President Marshall. If only
we could find a politician with the morals
and resolve of this guy. Glenn Close and Dean Stockwell make a nice twosome
as they argue over who is actually in command of the U.S.A. while the
president is in jeopardy. Oldman is in great, if clichéd, form
as the terrorist commander.
The movie does ask the audience to make several huge suspensions of disbelief
as it whisks the main characters through airspace without seeming to take
some laws of physics into consideration. On top of that, some of the computer
graphics effects are rather poor. What ever happened to using decent models
for special effects? Once thought to be the saviour of special effects
technology, it now seems evident that every major action movie needs to
use CGI effects simply to be considered up-to-date. Does anyone check
to see how cheesy it looks on film? Granted, some of the fighter scenes
are well-done, but a few key explosions look totally unconvincing.
Still, the performances save what could have been a horrible movie in
the wrong hands. Wolfgang Petersen's directing keeps the film moving along
at a decent pace and, with a running time of just over two hours, that's
a good thing. He manages to keep some things in check, like the possibility
of the president's daughter, Alice (Liesel Matthews), becoming too cutesy
or too smarmy. Her performance is exactly what the film calls for. The
president's wife, Grace (Wendy Crewson), is also nicely handled.
The overt patriotism is a little hard to swallow and the effects are
pretty lousy in places, but if you're looking for a movie to kill a night
with, you could do a lot worse than Air Force One.
lead role was written for Kevin Costner, but he was heavily committed
to The Postman, and suggested Harrison Ford for the part. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)