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
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
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
Copyright © 1997 Andrew Hicks