Director: Stuart Baird
Cast: Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, BD Wong, Steven Seagal
Released: March 15, 1996
As far as airplane hijack movies go, Executive Decision is not as good as Air Force One, but it is heaps better than Passenger 57 (which is a sorry excuse for an airplane hijack movie since it takes place on the ground for most of the movie!)
David Grant (Kurt Russell) is the world's leading expert on the world's most wanted terrorist. No, not Osama Bin Laden, but some other guy, Jaffa. He is captured and taken into custody, but he still has men out there working for him and these men, led by a man named Hassan, hijack a plane flying from Athens to D.C. and they have canisters of a poisonous gas. A single drop can kill a few men and the amount they have on the plane can wipe out the entire eastern seaboard.
The hijacked flight is Oceanic Flight 343....yes, Oceanic Airlines, as in the same airline on Lost. First this airline has a plane that's hijacked, then it has a plane that crashed into a mysterious island...yeah, I won't be flying that (fake) airline anytime in my lifetime! This is the third time I've seen this movie and the first time I realized the Oceanic airline connection, so obviously Lost wasn't around when I saw this the first two times....I know for a fact it wasn't around the first time since I saw it when it was released on video in late 1996. The second time I saw it was in December 2004, when the first season of Lost was on, but I binged watched the first season on DVD.
Obviously it had been quite a while since I saw this movie, so I had forgotten a few things (though I didn't forget that Steven Seagal is killed within the first half hour!) I remembered that Halle Berry plays a flight attendant on the hijacked plane, but I completely forgot what Kurt Russell's role was and thought he was the pilot of the hijacked plane. I probably should have realized he wasn't when he was taking flying lessons in a small plane. Duh. I don't think pilots who fly commercial airliners should still be taking lessons in small two-seater planes!
David Grant and Seagal's Lieutenant character are not on the plane when it it hijacked. They are safely on the ground in Washington D.C. Grant is at a fancy black-tie party when he is called in for consultation. They learn that Hassan has hijacked the plane because he wants Jaffa to be released. Grant thinks the terrorist has other intentions: as in using the airplane to explode the bomb that they somehow got onto the plane. This was 1996....back when people just didn't care what you brought on a plane!
Seagal's short-lived character comes up with the most ludicrous plan ever and knows a guy, Dennis (Oliver Platt), who can help them out with it. Together with Grant, Dennis, and his team (who would be completely at home on Survivor: Cook Islands as you have the black guy (Morton), the Hispanic guy (Leguizamo), the Asian guy (Wong), and the white guy (some actor I don't know). If you are a Survivor fan like me, you will understand the reference!)
They are all in a small fighter jet and the plan is for them to fly to Oceanic Flight 343, line up with the airliner's cargo holder or something....I don't know. I don't know anything about planes, but you've all seen the movie and you know what I'm talking about. Basically they're doing a mid-air transfer and they are able to do this by putting their jet on auto pilot so it will fly in synch with the airliner and Dennis lines up the planes together and makes sure the air pressure is okay so they can crawl up this tube that he attaches between both planes. The whole thing is completely ridiculous! I don't know which is more ridiculous - this or when Denzel flew the 747 upside down in Flight.
Grant was suppose to stay on the jet...the only reason he went with them was because...I really don't know why, to be honest. But Morton's character, Cappy, ends up getting hurt and Grant helps him and ends up on the plane. By that time, the Seagal character and the jet pilot are the only ones left on the jet and they are loosing air pressure and Dennis tells Grant to shut the door or both planes with explode and everyone will die and Grant, who never liked Seagal's character, has the decency to look mournful about what he's about to do and after he shuts the door, the jet explodes and Seagal is never to be seen again...thank goodness as he is not a good actor and we don't need him ruining this movie!
So Hassan is with the pilots and they notice a light go off indicating the hatch (hey, another Lost reference!) and they ask what that is and make one of the pilots go down and see what's going on. He sees Grant who signals to him to keep quiet and points out they are Americans there to help him and give him a burnt flashdrive to use as an excuse as to why that light went out. He relays this message to the hijacker who pokes his head in and looks around at the darkness but doesn't actually go down to investigate to see if anything is up. What a lazy terrorist! He just chooses to believe the pilot is telling him the truth. And if he didn't want to go down there, he had plenty of other terrorist friends around him. Why didn't he have one of them go down there and check to see what was going on? So stupid. I can't believe I'm complaining how stupid the terrorists are!
Grant and his crew drill holes and set up camera along the plane to see if they can spy Hassan. Grant says he doesn't know what he looks like, but could recognize his voice anywhere. While hiding in an elevator, Grant sees that flight attendant Jean (Halle Berry) has noticed him and she blocks him when Hassan comes over to her so that he can't see Grant. This signals to Grant that he can trust her and later they call her on the airline phone, tell her they are watching her through a camera and ask for her help...there is a passenger on the plane that is working with the terrorists and has the device that will detonate the bomb. Jean agrees to do this even after Hassan catches her talking on the phone and slaps and threatens her.
Speaking of the bomb...Cappy, our injured guy who is laying flat on his back with a neck brace, is the only guy who knows how to dismantle a bomb, but unfortunately there is no way he can do that, so he has to walk Dennis through on what to do.
I should also mention that they had no way of contacting the White House and when the jet lost contact, they assumed that everyone probably thought they were dead. The White House gives order to have the plane shot down, but one of the guys uses morse code on the plane tail lights to signal to one of the jets that they are on the plane and the attack is aborted. Obviously there is a showdown between Grant and Hassan and one of the hijackers shoots the plane and a big piece is ripped away and there is a gaping hole in the plane. Both pilots, Hassan and the hijackers are dead, but Grant, Jean, the rest of our heroes, and passengers who were fortunate not to be sitting in the area where the guy was shooting are still on the plane and they need to land safely, somehow. Grant, if you remember, has been taking flying lessons, and takes control of the plane and Jean helps him out, reading from the pilot's handbook. He misses the runway at the airport, so instead he has to land at the place where he flies the small planes. The landing is a bit (okay, a lot) bumpy and the plane is on fire, but they manage to land without anymore fatalities. And while all this is going on, Dennis and Cappy have to make sure the bomb doesn't detonate!
A fun movie, but not one you would want to see on board a plane!