Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Executive Decision

Air Force One
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Cast: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley
Released: July 25, 1997

Oscar nominations:
Best Editing (lost to Titanic)
Best Sound (lost to Titanic)

Spoilers for a 16 year old movie!

While I was watching this movie (my third time), I kept wondering, What if Bill, Hilary, and Chelsea (who were the First Family when this was released) were in this situation? What if it were old Dubya, Laura, and their twin girls? What it if were Obama up there with Michelle and their daughters? And in every scenario, EVERYBODY DIES.

All-American President
Harrison Ford plays President James Marshall, the most kick-ass POTUS of all time! He's a veteran of the Vietnam War, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, a retired military aviator, a black belt in karate, a member of MENSA, and a Noble Peace Prize winner. (Okay, I may have embellished some of those!) Seriously, if something like this had happened to a POTUS like the one Michael Douglas plays in The American President (or a real life President like I mentioned before), it's safe to say everyone would be screwed and nobody would make it out of this situation alive. President Marshall has just given a speech in Russia and is headed back to Washington on Air Force One along with staff and his wife and 12 year old daughter. Also included on this flight is one mole and a group of Russian reporters who have been given permission to ride in the plane and interview the President. What nobody knows until it's too late is that the real Russian reporters were killed by a terrorist group led by a man named Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman) and their name badges and identities were stolen.

The mole is played by Xander Berkeley, one of many character actors in this movie. You think he is part of the Secret Service, but once he kills other members of the Service and tosses guns out to the terrorists, you know he is a mole! And just think, a few short years later, the same actor would go on to play George Mason in 24, a man who would sacrifice his life for the United States. I guess he was making up for this movie! Hey....wasn't Air Force One exploding and killing the POTUS on an episode in 24? There have been so many presidential deaths on that show I can't keep them all straight!

Once Secret Service hears bullets flying everywhere in the plane, they take the POTUS and hustle him down to a pod and launch him out of the plane so he will be safe and will easily be found with a tracking device. Apparently such a pod does not exist on Air Force One, but that would be awesome if it really did. Meanwhile, the other hostages on the plane have been ushered into a guarded conference room. In a creepy almost kind of foreshadowing to 9/11, the terrorists break into the cockpit and kill the pilots and divert the plane to head to their destination, which is Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the VP (Glenn Close) is alerted of the situation as well as the U.S. Defense Secretary played by yet another character actor, Dean Stockwell (Al from Quantum Leap!) Korshunov contacts them and tells them he wants the release of a dictator he supports who had just been sentenced to prison. He tells them they will execute a passenger every half hour until he is released. And he is true to his word. Nobody in Washington has no idea if the POTUS is still alive or not and don't want to make any deals if they don't know for sure about the President's safety. The pod is found, but it is empty! Marshall stayed on board in the cargo area because there was no way he was going to leave his family and members of his Cabinet and his advisors up in the air with terrorists! This President doesn't run from anybody or anything!

Marshall calls the operator in D.C. and there's a bit of a comic relief moment when he tells her he's the President and wants to be connected to the White House and she tells him that the President never calls this line and scoffs at his acclaim of being the president. Once she hears gunfire, she puts him through right away and he alerts the VP and everyone else of the situation.

Korshunov takes the First Lady and First Daughter to a private section of the plane to keep an eye on them. Marshall shoots the terrorists who are guarding the conference room and sneaks everybody down to the back of the plane where everyone is fitted into parachutes and the hatch is open to let them escape that way. Soon just a few people are left on the plane including the terrorists, the First Family, a few other passengers, and the (undetected) mole. When Korshunov threatens to kill the First Lady, Marshall gives the VP the go ahead to release the dictator. Now it's been quite a few years since I last saw this movie, but I could have sworn that the Fist Lady was killed in this movie. I remember the other woman, the Deputy Press Secretary, was killed, but for some reason, I also remember the First Lady being murdered. Maybe I am thinking of another movie. After the prisoner is released, Marshall and Korshunov get into a physical altercation and it ends with the President snapping the terrorists' neck and before kicking him out of the plane (the hatch was open at the point) tells him, "Get off of my plane!" Once they don't have to worry about Korshunov anymore, Marshall races back to call off the release of the prisoner and he is shot right before he gets to his freedom.

Even though all the terrorists are incapacitated (or so they think! The mole is still among them!), the airliner is not going to be able to land due to outside damage from other terrorists (I'm telling you, this movie is non-stop action!), so outside help from the Air Force is needed. We next proceed to the most ridiculous scene in the entire movie: a huge military plane is flying in front of them and some guy (sorry, I don't know the correct jargon for any of this!) hooks up a zip line from that plane to Air Force One. The mole is the one who's standing by the door of AFO and he's supposed to let the guy in and you think he might cut the line or something, but he doesn't. A few more guys come from the other plane to help assist the others off the plane. They clip the First Daughter, then the First Lady to the zip line and they make it to the other plane. They next want Marshall, but he insists that his wounded Chief of Staff (played by C.S.I.'s Paul Guilfoyle - another character actor!) go before him. Soon the only people left on the plane are Marshall, the mole, and Marshall's Air Force advisor (played by yet another character actor, William H. Macy). Air Force One is about to crash and they only have time to get one more person to safety. Macy tells the President to go and this is the time where Berekeley reveals himself as the mole when he kills Macy. Marshall finds himself in (yet another) physical altercation and the zip line breaks at the last minute as he manages to clip onto it so he's dangling from the other plane as the men pull him up and tell Washington that the President is safe. Of course at the last minute he escapes from Air Force One, it crashes into the ocean and thus the new plane Marshall is on is dubbed Air Force One.

Now can you see why I think if this scenario happened with a real President's family everybody would die? Yep. A fun and thrilling movie nonetheless.

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