Air Force One (VHS, 1998, Box Office Hits Collection)

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Gary Oldman as a Kazakhstani?!?!? Um...

Feb 10, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Some good action sequences, some decent characters...

Cons:... predictable script, uninvolving, doesn't make best use of a good cast...

The Bottom Line: Not a terrible action film, but not a particularly good one.


In Air Force One, US President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is put in a tough position when his newly expounded policy of non-tolerance to terrorists (following the capture of a general in Kazakhstan) is put to the test, involving him in a very personal way. Fortunately though Marshall is a former veteran helicopter pilot with war experience, so turning action hero isn’t too much of a problem for him. If you can swallow that, you might just enjoy the film!

Actually it’s not a bad film particularly, it just never really made much difference to me what happened. President Marshall is portrayed as quite a likeable character and a family man, while the bad guys are quite nasty bad guys (even when they don’t have the neon flashing “bad guys” sign over their heads it’s still obvious that’s what they are)… but something was missing. The action largely takes place, as the film’s title would suggest, on “Air Force One”, the President’s aircraft that contains “the world’s most advanced communications centre”, a place where “a war could be directed from if necessary”, in the words of the PR woman giving a guided tour to a TV crew. The battle is mainly that of two men – President Marshall and the leader of the terrorists / freedom fighters / whatever you want to call them. There are some other major players in the situation; on the plane Marshall’s wife Grace (Wendy Crewson, who gives a very good performance) and National Security Advisor Jack Doherty (Tom Everett). Looking at the credits you might think William H Macy had a fairly major (sorry) role as Major Caldwell, but he really does very little (probably the fact that he isn’t even given a first name was a clue.) Down on the ground we have Vice President Bennett (Glen Close) and Defence Secretary Dean (Dean Stockwell), who have opposing ideas about how best to handle the situation – and even about who should handle it (the Attorney General has to be brought in to settle this).

Meanwhile, up in the air there’s a battle royale going on, and lots of people threatened or being killed. Tough action will have to be taken – but who can Marshall trust? There are several good action scenes and some quite good scenes generally, but overall the film doesn’t really involve the viewer. The dialogue is somewhat to blame for this – at key moments Oldman’s speeches just sound downright silly instead of terrifying / inspirational / etc. This is a shame and also somewhat a puzzle considering that the early dialogue was actually pretty good and even, on at least one occasion, very provocative (”You who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis to save a nickel on a gallon of gas are going to lecture me on the rules of war? Well DON'T. “) I guess the scriptwriters struggled to keep up the quality of the dialogue without sounding almost like they were justifying terrorism – so it’s understandable that there was a bit of a decline. Still this, coupled with the predictability and the fact that no matter how passionate Oldman’s performance was I could never quite find him believable in this particular role, meant it was a pretty mundane experience for me. Glen Close, a fine actress, also failed to really convince me with her performance as Vice President, though at least her lines weren’t as bad as Oldman’s in their conversations!

Overall, this is a film I’m not especially annoyed at having spent my time watching, but I won’t be bothering with it again. I like Harrison Ford but this film didn’t really play to his strengths, in fact it really didn’t make the most of a fine cast here. It took a provocative subject and tried to deal with it in a non-provocative way, which just made it kind of uninteresting. If there’s nothing else on and you really like Ford or Oldman, it’s worth a shot, but otherwise there are better ways to spend 2 hours.


Other Details

Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Runtime: 124 minutes (in all honesty it could probably have done with shaving off about 20 minutes)
Rating: 15 (UK) R (US) – for violence and intense action sequences

Air Force One was nominated for 2 Oscars – best editing and best sound. Some of the CGI sequences were rather unconvincing so it’s no surprise that the effects didn’t get a nomination!! Jerry Goldsmith’s musical score won the BMI Film Music Award. The film won or was nominated for several other awards so it obviously went down well generally, it just didn’t do much for me.


Related Links

Films by Wolfgang Peterson:

Troy (5 stars)
Poseidon (3 stars)

Films starring Harrison Ford

Star Wars: A New Hope (5 stars)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (5 stars)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi(4 stars)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (5 stars)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (4 stars)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (5 stars)
Firewall (3 stars)
Random Hearts (2 stars)

See also: my Top Ten Action / Adventure Movies, many of which star Harrison Ford.


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