Note: This column will contain spoilers. I also take a couple light shots at Trump. You’ve been warned.
Air Force One is a true relic of the 1990s. The film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen (who was on a roll at the time, following In the Line of Fire and Outbreak) and came at the end of the Die Hard inspired “one man versus terrorists in an enclosed space” subgenre of action movies which gave us classic after classic throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. Air Force One is also from the action era before 9/11, an event which would forever change how filmmakers portrayed terrorist acts in popular entertainment. I’ve seen the movie a handful of times, but this was my first viewing since the late ‘90s and it’s a different experience in many ways. It’s hard to roll with a dumb action movie (and this movie is capital DUMB) that hinges on subplots including terrorists taking over a plane and traitors to a hostile power. However, those are unfair to hold against a movie that wasn’t intended to be political or controversial (it’s never mentioned if President James Marshall is a Democrat, Independent or Republican) in the first place. All we really gather from this President is that he has a conscience, is a regular guy who likes football, loves his family and won’t stand for terrorist guff. Political nuance and grey area need not apply. This is a popcorn movie through and through.
Under Siege, Speed, Sudden Death, Die Hard 2 or With a Vengeance, etc. but it’s not without charm. Harrison Ford is the whole show here in a role originally written for my boy Kevin Costner, who was too busy working on The Postman to take the role in Air Force One and went as far as suggesting Ford for the part. In other words, I will not condone any Kevin Costner bad mouthing in the comments for this article…or to my face, ever! Without Ford, Air Force One would be almost direct-to-video quality. It’s very professional looking crap, save for the visual effects, which are just crap (that plane crash at the end…like, are you serious?). Air Force One represents an interesting period in Harrison Ford’s career. It’s kind of the end of his “Harrison Ford is...” time period, by which I mean his involvement alone was worth hundreds of millions of dollars in box office. Look at the poster. It just says his name, who he’s playing and has a huge picture of his face. You are selling this movie on Harrison Ford and Harrison Ford alone. The poster doesn’t even explicitly state that the movie is in the action genre. But, boy is it in the action genre, which is where Ford excels best.
My most lasting memory of Air Force One before this re-watch was that it’s a “Harrison Ford falls on people” movie. He doesn’t really fight as much as lunges at you and hopes for the best. I love it so much. It got a little ridiculous by the time he was making 2005’s Firewall, but it’s an aspect that made Harrison Ford endearing to me as much as his epic “My wife! My family!” delivery that he seemed contractually obligated to make for several years. One point of contention I have with the action in Air Force One, though, is that Ford breaks Wishmaster icon Andrew Divoff’s neck and it’s like “How can I root for Harrison Ford?” after that. Ford’s on-screen nemesis (who he has stated is his career favorite) is Gary Oldman as a loyalist to a radical General (played by Jurgen Prochnow) that Oldman demands be freed. It’s a fun performance, which unfortunately is dispatched quite early in the climax, resulting in a weird choice by the filmmakers to pad the last twenty-something minutes with secondary villains and Ford’s character trying to fly Air Force One out of danger. It is crazy and not always crazy fun. The cast is rounded out by a rep company of ‘90s character actors or stars popular from decades past, including Glenn Close, Dean Stockwell (super annoying by design here), an up and coming William H. Macy, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley, Wendy Crewson (doesn’t get more ‘90s than that) and Liesel Matthews (of A Little Princess fame) as the First Daughter. I had a crush on her in 1997. I was all “We will not negotiate which songs are played by the DJ at our wedding!”