This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Air Force One.”
The Movie: “Air Force One”
Starring: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Hijackers seize the plane carrying the President of the United States and his family but he — an ex-soldier — works from hiding to defeat them.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78 percent
Brown: Now that all the Sharknados are behind us and the skies are opened up, I felt it was a good time to take to the air. And because the JOE-DOWN loves nothing quite as much as ‘80s and ‘90s action movies, it was time to go airborne with “Air Force One.”
Surprisingly, I have never seen this one, which was the main reason I wanted to watch it. Lord knows I’ve said to friends enough times in my life “Get off my plane,” I never completely knew the buildup to such an amazingly hokey action one-liner.
Really, I was in love with this movie before I saw it, much like “Snakes On A Plane.” It also dawned on me that both these movies take place in the sky. Maybe there’s something in the recirculated cabin air that brings out movie poster quotes. We need to do “Con-Air” now.
Now Froemming, I know it’s a shock to not see Harrison Ford piloting something (whether spaceship or pickup truck), but what did you get from watching President James Marshall v. rogue Russians?
Froemming: I wish Harrison Ford was our president.
I also had never seen this film, but I was excited when you chose it because it gave me a reason to see Ford in an airplane and not crash it for once.
I find it interesting how just about every JOE-DOWN film we have picked so far that features Eastern Europeans has made them the antagonists. It really reinforces my prejudice that if sound like Boris and Natasha when you speak, I immediately find you suspect. That’s on you, Hollywood.
But enough of my irrational fears of Russians, Brown, why don’t you get us started.
Brown: To start, we’re vaulted right into Kazakhstan, and I’m taken out of the movie for a brief spell because all I can think of is Borat. Alas, we never see the country’s No. 1 TV news reporter.
Instead, we get Special Forces from America and Russia parachuting in to apprehend a rogue dictator in Gen. Ivan Radek.
Couple quick observations here. First, you KNOW these guys are Special Forces because they have precision aim while drifting down on a parachute. My mind was blown with how nearly impossible that seemed. Then, I sincerely thought that Gen. Radek was the guy who played the principal in “The Breakfast Club.” Alas, it was Jürgen Prochnow, the antagonist from “Beverly Hills Cop II” and “Beerfest.”
After this action-packed opening, we get… diplomacy. The president of the U.S., James Marshall, is having dinner with the Russian president.
Look, this would be too easy, so I’m just going to get this out of the way and never mention it again… I think “Air Force One” is the reason President Trump is allegedly so chummy with the Russians. If he isn’t, they hold his family hostage aboard Air Force One.
There, got it out of my system.
Froemming: Why do you hate America?
Brown: I’m a journalist. Enemy of the American people.
Froemming: #SAD! Enough politics, let’s get to high-octane policy reversals from Marshall! During his speech, President Marshall drops a truth bomb upon his audience that they allowed people to die due to international policy decisions, gummed up by bureaucracy, that stalled any actions that could have stopped Gen. Radek earlier. He announces that the U.S. will no longer negotiate with terrorists.
I thought that had been our policy for decades, but I am not a political scientist, so I will let that slide for the sake of our film.
This upsets his nerdy national security advisor, and we are told could cost him the election. This stuff is all well and good, but my interest perked when I saw Gary Oldman — without eyebrows it seemed — posing as a member of a news team. But, again because of decades of Hollywood films, I found him suspect because he sounded like Ivan Drago when he spoke.
Brown: Yep, a bunch of shady-looking “reporters” approach Air Force One, but they have clearance from the press secretary. Something I did appreciate: When the terrorists are introduced, they are carrying big bags which leads you to immediately assume they have weapons and they’re going to get them through Secret Service security somehow. Instead, when the hijacking occurs, they procure weapons inside Air Force One, thanks to a mole. I dunno, I liked that touch.
And when the President arrives, we get standard ‘90s cliches, showing President Marshall as an everyman who loves his family, football and Budweiser after a long day of work being the President and all.
What was weird was the interactions he has with his daughter, where she starts acting up because dad won’t tell him about intricate details about his day in Russia. “I’m growing up, dad. I can handle it.” I swear, I thought she was going to tell Harrison Ford she was sexually active.
But enough of Moscow, let’s fly back to the USA…
Froemming: Woah, woah, slow down there pal! This plane is not going to the USA. Not on
Commissioner Gordon’s Ivan Korshunov’s watch! Yeah, all I could think was, “My God, Batman’s ally in saving Gotham is a dirty communist!” Also, his accent is comically bad in this film.
As Brown pointed out earlier, there is a mole on the plane who allows these Radek loyalists — posing as Donald Trump’s greatest enemies after basic grammar — to take control of the weapons on Air Force One. For all the security on this plane, it seems insanely easy to get a gun on the commander-in-chief’s airplane. Just throw a smoke bomb and grab an M-16 when everyone is covering their eyes!
Brown: They also gun down the press pool to start off this takeover. Somewhere, the commander-in-chief is giving a tiny thumbs up.
As for the ease of getting a gun, I excuse it. The guns were there, the guy was a mole and this was a pre-9/11 world. (REDACTED) was cool.
Calamity ensues as the president, his family and a bunch of cabinet members are aboard this plane that is being gunned down. Following protocol, the Secret Service insists on putting President Marshall in an escape pod, despite his pleas that he won’t leave his family. However, he is just one man, so Marshall is able to get out of Air Force One, leaving everyone else behind. … Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!
Froemming: I love that his escape pod looked an awful lot like the escape pod that C-3PO and R2-D2 used to escape the Empire at the start of “A New Hope.”
And if the Empire scanned President Marshall’s pod, they would have come to the conclusion that, much like the droid’s pod, there’s no life forms in it.
That’s because this is a Harrison (REDACTED) Ford film from the ‘90s. He is there to kick ass and take names! And scowl. He always seems to be scowling.
Brown: Throughout his career, Harrison Ford knows two forms of emoting: Scowling and coy smile. He’s a deep actor.
Froemming: Well, that’s one more emoting trick than the cast of “Twilight” had.
Brown: Also, we can’t forget that there is a pretty intense action sequence where the terrorists get Air Force One back in the sky after the pilots nearly pull off an emergency landing at an Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany. They couldn’t just disarm the terrorists with heavy metal?
With America’s leader gone, the terrorists are desperate and start making their demands to the White House (now led by Vice President Kathryn Bennett, played by Glenn Close): Radek is to be freed, or they kill a hostage every half-hour. They start with a bullet to the head to the national security advisor. Insert your Michael Flynn joke here, folks.
Froemming: As they were trying to prevent Air Force One from taking off again, I just wondered “Why are they not shooting at the wheels? That would stop the plane…”
But they take to the friendly skies as the vice president, along with Al from “Quantum Leap” U.S. Defense Secretary Walter Dean, are trying to figure out their options. And I desperately wanted Dean to pull out that “Quantum Leap” doodad (technical term) and contact Ziggy and rattle off random odds on how each would pan out.
But the dirty Russians have more problems than the wasteland that is U.S. political bureaucracy, because Marshall is still on the plane, and he has found a satellite phone so he can communicate with the pencil pushers in D.C.
His first deadly obstacle: The nefarious receptionist at the White House. Apparently, they don’t just push your call through to the War Room just because you say you are the president. Thanks a lot, Obama.
Brown: If the terrorists had done their homework, they would have known President Marshall was a former Air Force pilot and a Medal of Honor winner.
Early on, I can’t tell if they’re painting the president as crafty or cowardly because he always looks panicked as he crawls through the vents like Solid Snake. But after a little game of cat-and-mouse, Marshall is finally able to get a weapon. President Action! President Impact!
While Marshall is making his move, the terrorists have a big concern: One of the engines is low on fuel after the president cuts the fuel line. Did I mention there is a wire-cutting scene? Of course there is a wire-cutting scene, because ‘90s. The colors of the wires that saves the plane? Red, white and blue. Sigh… (REDACTED) you, movie.
Froemming: What were the odds of that?
Anyway, he gets a hold of D.C. and they know he is still on the plane. But all the noise he is making leads the Russians to think there is another Secret Service agent causing them a headache. And now, they need an emergency maneuver to get fuel into the plane. Marshall’s plan is to get the plane to a certain altitude and speed so he can get the hostages to parachute to safety. Does he know it is safe? Probably not. They could be jumping right into a volcano for all he knows. He isn’t flying the plane. This is, at best, extremely reckless.
Also, William H. Macy is in this. This marks the second time he has showed up in a JOE-DOWN movie review. He is one of the hostages and is an aide to the president. I will never see him as anyone but Jerry Lundegaard in any film. In my mind, he got the position because he really sold the government on that TruCoat.
Brown: You know, kudos to Jerry Lundegaard for getting out of the midwest, putting that botched kidnapping/murder thing behind him and finding a nice, cushy government job. Really, I think that kind of career turnaround is commonplace in DC. Drain the swamp!
Before we move on, let’s take a moment to thank the fax machine, of all things, for letting the White House know the correct speed and altitude they need for the hostages to escape. And I found it funny that like a newsroom, no one at the White House checks the fax.
Froemming: I am always baffled as to why we in the news media continue to have fax machines. I am even more baffled that sports coaches still use them to send over results.
Brown: The hostages are able to escape, but now the terrorists have the hostage with Marshall. And there’s a pretty cool exchange with Oldman and Ford when we get the cliched villain monologue. Yes, the accent is nondescript, but Oldman really goes for it in this movie. He’s not Hans Gruber from “Die Hard” good, but there was a point late in the movie where I debated that point in my head. If anything, that makes for a ringing endorsement for his portrayal of Ivan.
Froemming: Oldman always seems to give it his all in any film he is in. Even when he appears in questionable films.
Now, Ivan uses Marshall — via threat to murder his family — to arrange the release of Radek with the Russians. You know, it was just a few hours earlier he said he wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. Marshall is soft on terrorism, wears mom jeans and is a lame duck president. #SAD!
Brown: What isn’t soft is Marshall’s fighting skills, because he breaks free from his bonds and fights the terrorists in Air Force One’s command center. At one point, one of his Secret Servicemen takes a bullet because of course.
Now, there’s a dialogue between Ivan and the president’s daughter earlier in the movie where she says her dad has never killed, but Ivan says he has through bureaucracy. Now, she gets to see her old man kill for real. Hope you were ready for knowing the dark side of life, kid, because it just happened right in front of your (REDACTED) face.
Froemming: He has never killed, yet somehow got the Medal of Honor in Vietnam? I can’t wait to see the Swift Boat attacks on him during his re-election if that is the case.
Of course, this leads to the classic fight out with Ivan…
Brown: Which leads to…
I’ve never been so proud to be an American. I finally get that Lee Greenwood song.
Froemming: I can’t deny how thrilling it was to finally see that scene with the context of the film. The line is classic, and I had obviously seen that part on Youtube over the years, but knowing what leads up to it makes it a lot better. Suck it, Russia!
Anyway, after Ivan falls to his doom like Harvey Dent, Marshall then contacts Russia and reverses the release of Radek.
Brown, was the lead up to his release, with the Russian singing, the most Russian thing you have ever seen on film?
Brown: Aside from the beginning of the Drago/Rocky fight in “Rocky IV,” no. Nothing has ever been that painfully Russian. Hollywood had to have forgotten that the Cold War ended in 1989 when David Hasselhoff’s golden vocal cords brought it down.
Now, the movie could have just ended on that epic one-liner, but it doesn’t. There’s that whole messy manner of trying to land the plane and saving everyone inside. Luckily, Marshall piloted helicopters in ‘Nam. It’s the same as a jumbo jet, right? Right?!
Because this movie refuses to let you catch your breath, Marshall has another foe to dispose of: Kazakh fighter jets from a Radek loyalist.
Why? Because the Russians found out Marshall disposed of the terrorists and gunned down Radek like he was Tommy from “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Froemming: Well, he is able to avoid the missiles shot at his plane, because sure. But one poor bastard gets himself blown up, which damages Air Force One to the point it can’t land. Now, I am no expert at aircrafts, but isn’t this supposed to be the safest plane in the world? Is there no way it can belly flop land like I have seen planes do in other films? Apparently not.
So they need to get the Air Force to fly close to it, and tether the two planes so the rest of the hostages can escape.
Oh, remember that mole who got the Russians to take over the plane in the first place for reasons that were never explained and just stood in the background ever since? Yeah, he is still around. And he is going to cause some more trouble, because the script demanded it from him!
Brown: Well, we got some loose ends to tie up. There’s only time for one more escape and there’s two people left between Marshall and the mole. My question is this: Yes, the mole is hell-bent on getting off the plane, but what’s going to happen to him once he gets onto the military plane? Arrested. The dude is (REDACTED) covered in blood. Instead, he gets to go down with the plane in one of the worst CGI clips I’ve seen.
Also, he shoots Jerry Lundegaard. Guess that dude was screwed regardless of what path in life he took.
Froemming: My theory is Jerry survives, and moves to Chicago on the sly and takes on the alias of Frank Gallagher. He spends the rest of his years with a dysfunctional family and is drunk all the time.
And yes, that plane crash was terrible looking. This is why practical effects almost always look better. I think Harrison Ford saw this CGI debacle and saw George Lucas’ latch onto it rabidly for the “Star Wars” prequels and decided to only come back to the franchise if they kill Han Solo off.
But hey, the day is saved and the vice president, for some reason, destroys the 25th Amendment that was a boring subplot of this film I am glad we didn’t bother discussing.
Brown: We do get one more cheesy one-liner after Marshall is reeled into the military plane: “Liberty 2-4 is changing call signs. Liberty 2-4 is now Air Force One.” Salutes follow. You can see the look in Ford’s eyes that he wishes Chewbacca was there to greet him after such a traumatic ordeal. Instead, it’s his wife and daughter.
I’m bummed for Marshall that he never caught the end of that Michigan/Notre Dame football game he was so hell-bent on watching at the beginning.
And with that, let’s get off his plane and get to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Absolutely. It’s good, cheesy ‘90s action fun. Ford is a badass, Oldman is on point and William H. Macy gets shot. A win all around. With that said, it’s a weird watch currently, considering real-life headlines.
Froemming: Yes, hell yes I would. This is one of those movies that is just a bunch of dumb fun, but we get some great performances from Oldman and Ford as well. I say check it out.