Air Force One (1997)
Air Force One (1997) – Right after watching As Good as it Gets on cable I saw there was another movie from 1997 starting up… one that while perhaps not as critically acclaimed kicked a substantially higher volume of ass. Wolfgang Petersen’s Air Force One is the kind of action movie I grew up on. It was the last great Die Hard-inspired hostage situation action flicks. It’s also, I think, the last great Harrison Ford movie. I rather liked What Lies Beneath but when I say “great Harrison Ford movie” I mean one of those movie where Ford kicks major ass and is charismatic and all-around awesome while doing it. At some point, Ford became very boring as an actor and (if talk show appearances are to be believed) as a person. What the fuck happened to Indiana Jones? To Rick Deckard? To Han motherfucking Solo? Now I’m not saying that President James Marshall is on the same level as those three roles for which he will rightfully be forever remembered, but it’s recognizably the same guy. Not the guy who gruffly sleep-walked through Cowboys & Aliens (sigh… and I had such high hopes for that one).
So Ford’s President James Marshall has just facilitated the apprehension of Kazakh dictator General Radik (Jürgen Prochnow) and is returning from Eastern Europe a hero, particularly after his pledge that the United States would stand up to terrorist thugs. Then said terrorist thugs (led by Gary Oldman and including character actors Elya Baskin and Andrew Divoff) seize control of the president’s plane, demanding Radik’s release. The Secret Service get the president to the escape pod (because in this movie Air Force One has an escape pod) and eject it before getting killed, but Marshall stayed behind to make sure his wife and daughter are safe. He then precedes to John McClane his way through the terrorists as he remains hidden. It’s all very badass.
Ford is ass-kicking and great in the lead role, plus he actually seems somewhat presidential. Gary Oldman goes big as the villain, as he is wont to do. The supporting cast is filled with people like Glenn Close as the Vice President, William H. Macy as an air force major, Dean Stockwell as the Secretary of Defense (who is portrayed as scheming but in real life would actually be the most level-headed of the bunch), Phillip Baker Hall as the Attorney General (this cabinet rules!), and Xander Berkeley as a crooked Secret Service agent. Bill Clinton screened Air Force One multiple times in the White House screening room while he was in office. (Fun fact: the most watched film at the White House is the 1952 western High Noon, screened by every president since Eisenhower.) The movie is a hell of a lot of fun and Ford is decidedly more badass than most actual presidents (most, but not all). Check this movie out if you like things that are awesome.