Monday, 29 December 2014

Air Force One (1997)

You know what it's like; it's Christmas and you're stuffed to the gunnels with nibbles and beer but you're still going on both and what you really want to do is watch some dumb action movie. Naturally, Die Hard - with its festive theme - is the way to go, but isn't that a bit obvious? And besides the DVD is upstairs and you really can't be arsed getting off the sofa. You want your festive thrills though and ever since Bruce pulled on that grubby vest there's something about terrorism that goes hand in hand with Christmas, just look at the hapless underpants bomber of Christmas '09.

Thankfully the cable station Watch knows just what you're after and decided to broadcast Air Force One, Wolfgang Peterson's cheeky riff on Die Hard which substituted Bruce's all American average Joe hero for the all American President of the USA a good sixteen years before White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen

Was this the last truly decent Harrison Ford star role? I rather think it was. It's in no way a great film, but it was a great vehicle for him, something which he seemed to have lost the knack of picking come the end of the 20th century. Everything else after this is a dismal roll call of ill advised earring wearing tosh. The role of the President called to action ideally suits Ford at this stage in his career, trading on his natural stately respected presence as well as his action man screen persona. It's the kind of film that could only be made during or post the Clinton administration; could you imagine how laughable and galling this kind of thing would have been if Reagan was in power at the time?

The role of chief baddie does little to stretch the talents of Gary Oldman as it's essentially just Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber revisited, but there's enough scope for his natural edginess to flourish and it provides a neat and palpably dangerous contrast to the wholesome heroics of Ford even though this kind of disgustingly patriotic gung ho 'Yankees good, Russkies bad' shite was truly passe by this time, some eight years after the Berlin Wall fell. It' all very well saying these Russians were terrorists rather than figures indicative of the general former USSR itself, but try telling that to the average Joe, all American or otherwise, buying his ticket. 

Meanwhile Glenn Close played possibly the best Veep we had before Julia Louis Dreyfuss came along.

Lauded in the 90s as one of the decade's most successful action movies and earning praise from Bill Clinton himself, Air Force One hasn't really aged all that well. The formulaic, rehashed Die Hard style ingredients now seem so familiar as to feel like a knackered old pair of slippers whilst the narrative's vast plot holes - so big you could fly the real Air Force One right through - continued to grate with me on this rewatch; how did the terrorists pass as the TV news crew they had slain right down to their fingerprints and photo ID's? What was the motivation of Xander Berkeley's traitor?!  These kind of glaring omissions in terms of motivation and plotting are frankly inexcusable, both then and now. Peterson's nailed the authenticity of the US military, it's hardware and Presidential security machine but we need some depth to go with this 'look at our toys' showboating.  

For some reason, on this rewatch, I found Jerry Goldsmith's score to be the most familiar thing about this entire movie. I haven't seen this in some years yet as soon as I heard that score I was whistling and humming along to it.

This was passable enough dumb shoot 'em up entertainment for a greedy Christmas night, but maybe I really should have got off my arse and found Die Hard.

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