Air Force One
Reviewed by Dan Lybarger
July 24, 1997
Casting Harrison Ford as the President is such a shrewd move that one can forgive director Wolfgang Petersen (In the Line of Fire) for filming material thatís a little beneath his talent.
Air Force One is derivative, jingoistic and deliberately undemanding, but itís still a lot of fun. Ford plays a Chief Executive whoís too idealistic for his own good. After witnessing battle atrocities during a visit to the former Soviet Union, the President vows he will do whatever it takes to subdue terrorists and prevent the spread of war. His lofty pronouncement quickly gets questioned when a gang of angry Russian terrorists (led by a thankfully restrained Gary Oldman) hijacks his plane. Little do the hijackers know, but theyíve messed with the wrong President. He may regret his last speech, but heís combat vet who makes Rambo look like a muscle-bound pansy.
The script credited to Andrew W. Marlowe almost grounds Air Force One. While there are some delightful tongue-in-cheek moments (he may be the President, but he canít remember his own phone number), itís obvious that the folks whoíve made this flick have memorized Die Hard, Passenger 57 and Executive Decision. The plot is merely an obstacle course for the President, and with the exception of Ford, Glenn Close (who plays a tough as nails VP) and Dean Stockwell, the cast is stuck with one-dimensional roles that donít give them much to do.
If it isnít exactly for the Ages, at least Air Force One does deliver the thrills. As with Das Boot, Petersen makes the most of his claustrophobic environment. Even if you know what danger waits for the Prez, Petersen can pace a scene so well that he makes an otherwise tepid scene look as if it was your worst nightmare come to life. In fact, Petersen handles the plane so well that plot and character development seem almost needless. The reassuring presence of Ford doesnít hurt either. There arenít too many actors who can be convincing as a saintly President, but Ford manages brilliantly. We arenít likely to find a candidate like him stumping on CNN, but Fordís strongest moments come when he plays earnest, down-to-earth heroes, and thatís exactly what he does here.
Air Force One might have offered more than hollow thrills if Petersen could have focused as much on his participants as he does on the plane. But in a summer of limp flicks, hollow thrills are better than none at all (PG-13). Rating: 6.
This page was last updated on 10/28/97.