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Air Force One

Air Force One

Air Force One is a very self-congratulatory movie. If this was a satire on America's selfish nationalism, it would have been more intelligent. Unfortunately, it's not. There's a scene where the Russian general, Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow), is shot and killed. The board members of the presidency all cheered in harmony, including the president (Harrison Ford) himself. It represents the kind of ridiculous Americanism you'd see in so-called 'patriotic' action movies. Thank god this was released in '97, not during the Cold War era, or people would've faced some kind of nuclear Holocaust upon the film's release.

And why is this such a bother in the movie, as opposed to other dumb action movies like Commando and The One? It's because the beginning of the movie felt realistic enough to convince me that this might not just be another dumb action film, only to disappointingly turn into one by the end. Despite stringing along several familiar action cliches like a Frankenstein's monster, I actually found some of the scenes quite refreshing because I wasn't aware that the tropes were in fact cliches. Questions were asked about the terrorists' easy infiltration of the plane ("No, you would have to generate fake ID, photo, fingerprints."), the pilots were willing to sacrifice their lives before they'd listen to the terrorists' demands; it's these little neat details that had me fooled that Wolfgang Petersen was going for a more realistic approach. And then I realized there's a secretary of defense, Walter Dean (Dean Stockwell), who's as much a trigger-happy a**hole as any generic military affiliates you'd see in other movies.

Gary Oldman gave such a believable performance that I almost bought into his sympathetic story about America's killing of innocent Russian citizens, but then the ending came along, and not only did it not have any resolution to the foreign relationships between America and Russia, it gave us a lengthy action sequence with the last of the survivors leaving the plane, showing an anti-climatic villain-showdown between James Marshall and the traitor among them, the secret service agent Gibbs (Xander Berkeley). If you wanted a climatic ending, tell me again why you didn't just end it with Ivan's death? That would have at least saved the film from the horrible special effect sequence when the plane crashed into the ocean.

Of course, it's only when the movie is over, when I look back at it, that I realized how dumb the film really is. I mean, you have an F-15 pilot taking a missile for the president without hesitation. Aren't they trained to eject their pilot-seat for that kind of thing? This is a totally different kind of self-sacrifice from earlier, when the Air Force One pilots rebelled against the terrorists; this is just an act of stupidity or inexperience. And then you have the terrorist cannon fodder who check on the noises one at a time so that an aging Harrison Ford would have an easier time taking them down. Don't get me started on the leak of information to the press; I'm pretty sure the presidential board members are more tight-lipped about this. Moreover, they are probably not going to have petty fights and arguments among each other like little children either.

Having said all that, Harrison Ford at this time still proved that he could sell himself as an action star. Although his 'Crystal Skull' sluggishness was starting to show, Ford still managed to squeeze that last remaining physicality in this movie. He's still clearly a great actor at that point of time, because he sold me really well on the opening speech about America's negligence on the loss of lives. Too bad the speech never got paid off with any satisfying conclusion.

Enjoyability: High... until the airplane bungee-escape at the end, then it tumbled down like Gary Oldman on the chute.