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USA 1997
Directed by
Wolfgang Petersen
124 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

Air Force One

Wolfgang Petersen directed the marvellous film Das Boot which was shot entirely in the cramped confines of a submarine so it’s reasonable to think he would have been a good choice for a movie set almost entirely within the confines of an airliner in flight.  Wrong!!

Air Force One is a ridiculous and clichéd affair that any competent Hollywood hack could have pulled off. Whilst the basic premise - the U.S President’s plane with him and his family on board is hijacked by Kazahkstani terrorists - leaves no doubt about the outcome, Andrew Marlowe’s script is a concatenation of genre tropes played out by a decent-to-good cast whose awkwardness is probably explained by the difficulty of rendering their cartoon characters with any conviction. The only exceptions to this embarrassing showing  are Gary Oldman who is rather good as the psychopathic terrorist leader and, on the ground, a to-the-point Glenn Close as the Veep having to think fast as the action permutes.

Director Petersen with the aid of Jerry Goldsmith’s incessant score delivers the story in the style of Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) a choice made obvious by the casting of Harrison Ford as ex Vietnam vet President Marshall. What worked as a tongue-in-cheek homage to 1930s adventure flicks, however, is jaw-droppingly inane when invested with contemporary Realpolitiks.

To make matters worse, unlike Das Boot, there aren’t even any technical achievements to merit our attention. The plane (or what is obviously a purpose-built set) is huge and is not only apparently impervious to strafing machine gun fire but has an Apollo mission-like escape pod, and perhaps most remarkably allows the Pres/Indiana to call Washington on a cell phone (via the White House switchboard!!) while he’s being hunted by goons who of course he picks off one by one etc. etc. etc

One could go on finding fault with Air Force One, not least its flag-waving populism, but a better choice would be simply not to watch it.




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