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Air Force One

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, Paul Guilfoyle, William H. Macy, Liesel Matthews, Dean Stockwell, Xander Berkeley, Bill Smitrovich

Review by Andrew Hicks
2½ stars out of 4

Harrison Ford is one of the most beloved movie actors today and the airborne action flick is one of the most beloved movie genres today. It was only a matter of time before a team-up occurred. AIR FORCE ONE is the latest film to set its violence and carnage aboard a plane, although as the title suggests, it's the first to set its action in the American President's plane. The novelty of a butt- kicking chief executive, and the performance of Ford as the president, makes this a watchable action thriller, but there are a lot of unbelievable sequences with less-than-credible special effects and bad writing that makes even Ford and Glenn Close look bad.

Ford is an idealistic president with a picture-perfect family (a pretty wife and cute adolescent daughter, tipoff number one that Ford's character wasn't modeled after Clinton) who stuns the world, at the beginning of AIR FORCE ONE, by scrapping a scripted speech for an impromptu address that sounds even more scripted. He promises no tolerance on terrorism in a "be afraid, be very afraid" kind of speech that is sincere but suicidal in a political sense.

Everyone climbs aboard Air Force One, a state-of-the-art luxury ship that looks like it cost the entire income tax of Wyoming. It sports some of the tightest security measures on the planet, as Russian "journalist" Gary Oldman and his "news crew" find out as they board. I put the words journalist and news crew in quotes because we all know by now that, whenever we see Oldman in an action movie, it spells disaster. He is a member of a psycho villain actors club -- the president of which is John Malkovich -- that grows continually smaller with every year.

Luckily, Oldman's performance here, as a loyalist to a captured Russian Communist general, is much better than his work in this summer's earlier THE FIFTH ELEMENT, where he had fake glasses, prosthetic teeth and a muddled accent. As a Russian terrorist, he works much better; he's crazy but we at least understand his reasoning and loyalties. With Ford's character imperfect, the lines are blurred more than usual action flicks, although we always know who's good and who's evil.

Oldman and his boys take the plane with lightning speed, but in a predictable fashion for anyone who's seen an airbound action thriller. It cuts way down on creativity to have a traitorous Secret Service man help them out with weapons, but the manic sequence that follows, with the terrorists killing existing Service men and Ford trying to escape via the escape pod, is good tense action. AIR FORCE ONE has an equal share of effective and misfired action sequences, although the downtime that dominates it is punctuated by some terrible dialogue.

Most of it is due to intense overacting by those watching the drama unfold in Washington, D.C. Close is the Vice President, a level-headed woman with more balls than most of the men in the room, while Dean Stockwell, Secretary of Defense, is trying to wrestle power away from her. I don't know if director Wolfgang Peterson instructed them to act like that or what, but it's so over-the- top it can't be taken seriously, and the way the loud score kicks in after every dramatic line or tense scene makes it even more unintentionally funny.

The whole time, no one but Ford knows he's still aboard the plane, down in the hold shooting terrorists and sabotaging the plane. He's the president but he's still an action hero. That aspect of the film is fun to watch and root on, because none of the presidents we've had have been young or integrity-filled enough to do anything like that. AIR FORCE ONE isn't as classy as most Harrison Ford action films but fits right in with the current crop of summer entertainment.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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