Air Force One (1997) Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. With Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, William H Macy, Xander Berkley and Glenn Close.
From the first few bars of Jerry Goldsmith’s patriotic score, the tone is set for this wildly over the top, but shamelessly entertaining star vehicle in which Harrison Ford plays a US president who finds himself having to channel his inner ‘Die Hard’ when Air Force One is hijacked by Gary Oldman and his band of Russian subordinates.
Although much of what occurs is silly, there emerges a level of entertainment value from letting go and enjoying the heightened performances and drama. Oldman is excellent and clearly relishes the opportunity to stretch his bad guy muscles, as he did so well in Leon. Unlike Alan Rickman in Die Hard, Oldman’s Ivan Korshunov isn’t interested in charming the audience with witty quips, choosing instead to demonstrate his intentions by ruthlessly killing hostages every 10-minutes until he gets what he wants. Ford, on the other hand, plays a kind of everyman President, who after having given an opening speech about how the US will never negotiate with terrorists, is forced through his own family being held hostage to put that ideology to the ultimate test.
There’s no denying how far-fetched Air Force One is, and post 9/11, it might never have seen the light of day. Sometimes the cliches of the sub-genre are used so heavily and with such excessive sentimentalism, that suspension of disbelief is stretched close to breaking point, but thanks to the sheer star quality of Ford and the joy of Oldman on top bad guy form, it’s never less than take-your-brain-out popcorn fun. 3.5/5