After an unfortunate absence (the cause of which being my return to school this week), I am back with a new post talking about a film which I like and you should love. In this case it is a film that was much talked about upon its release (I recently acquired the issue of Empire Magazine from 1997 that gave this film a glowing 4-star review), but has again seemed to fade as the years have passed. Today I thought I’d remind you how good Air Force One actually is.
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Starring: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Glenn Close, etc.
Directed by the man behind Das Boot, Air Force One shares a sense of thrilling suspense by having nearly all of the film’s action taking place within the confines of the President’s jumbo jet. Air Force One may now seem dated due to its geo-political context, but the same could be said in years to come for Olympus has Fallen; which took advantage of the tension between the US and North Korea two years ago. Air Force One takes place in the present day of 1997, with growing fears over Eastern European terrorism.
Harrison Ford stars at the noble President Marshall who is flying back from giving a speech in Moscow with his wife and daughter in tow. Gary Oldman is at his most venomous as the terrorist who intends to hold the President to ransom in order to free his former ruler who is imprisoned at the beginning of the film. The plot sets up stakes that appear worse than they are, but Glenn Close’s vice-president is on hand to watch and speculate from the sidelines as the long night goes on.
The action runs more on a sense of threat rather than actual fight scenes. Apart from shootouts at the beginning and end of the film, the narrative mostly sticks to a cat and mouse scenario where the mouse is the most powerful man in the world. Harrison Ford brings a sense of warmth to someone who could otherwise run the risk of unlikability. He’s the sort of man who you’d want to be your father, and Ford’s POTUS really is an outstanding spine for the film. Gary Oldman is also special, and oozes malice in a very Gary-Oldman way. This is the best action match-up since Harrison Ford was pursued by an Oscar-winning Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Gary Oldman is perhaps not awards-worthy here, but is capable of turning a seemingly modest and polite journalist into a murderous terrorist who is made of steel within seconds.
Wolfgang Peterson makes this film a success by making us care about the characters. When Ivan Korshunov (Oldman) begins to murder hostages, we do feel a sense of dread and panic as likable people are shot in the head. The only missteps in this film is a sense of simplicity. There seems to be little depth to the terrorists, and a betrayal doesn’t make complete sense.
Upon its release, Air Force One met with generally positive reviews and made a stonking $315m at the box office. Peterson has since stated that he wouldn’t have made the film post 9/11 and it easy to see why. Though I think the film should be seen as a piece of entertainment – a popcorn movie; it should be noted that the film masks how per-prosperous it is with its mostly dark tone. Air Force One may not have the artistic merit that some of the other films on this list do, but it is just as fun.
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Coming up next time: The most recent film on the list thus far, this 2013 remake gives a sense of wonder at the world we live while also making us laugh and fall in love in the most unexpected of ways.