Sony // 1997 // 124 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 17th, 2009
"The President will get back his baseball glove and play catch with this guy's balls."
Wolfgang Petersen's action saga of the ass-kickingest President in film history gets the Blu treatment.
After a trip to Russia, U.S. President James Marshall (Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) buckles down for the long, boring flight back home. Little does he know a scumbag terrorist (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight) is about to pull off what lesser terrorists only write about in their diary: hijack Air Force One. Little does he know, James Marshall isn't just any empty suit; the guy is a military veteran who's not afraid of violently disarming hijackers and shooting them in the face with their own guns.
It's been a while since I took a trip on Air Force One and the prospect of revisiting it didn't necessarily excite me. I remember sort of liking it, but not as anything especially worthwhile in the action genre. Point of fact: Time has been kind to this film and I am here to happily reminisce about one pretty badass piece of terrorists-gone-wild movie mayhem.
It all starts with Harrison Ford. Spry and chock full o' gravitas as President James Marshall, this dude is so harsh, he skips out on taking a ride in an awesome escape pod and stays aboard the plane so he can single-handedly save everyone while kicking Gary Oldman out the back door. Sure, he claimed he was doing all this to save his family from the clutches of bloodthirsty killers, but my guess is he wanted to lock down his re-election campaign quick and easy.
Petersen squeezes more than the "Die-Hard-on-a-plane" gimmick out of this, by incorporating some nifty big deal action sequences. According to the commentary, there wasn't enough money in the budget for the dogfight sequence but the guy pushed and, thankfully, they were able to do it. Good, because that stuff, when the plane is fleeing hostile airspace with a squadron of ill-tempered MiG pilots on their tailpipe, is genuinely exciting. In fact, once the terrorists do their thing, Air Force One never slows down and -- like any good blockbuster action epic -- keeps upping the ante, outdoing whichever set-piece came before it.
On Blu-ray, this 12 year-old release is reborn. The video quality -- 2.40:1 1080p widescreen -- is top-notch, especially when compared to other, lesser catalog releases. The detailing and color levels are strong from end to end, and will surely satisfy high-def aficionados (or fans of the film looking to upgrade). There is one caveat however: while most of the airplane footage was done with models (and that stuff looks great), the proto-CGI that's inflicted upon the viewer at the end (you know which scene I'm talking about) looks even cheesier when exposed by the HD facelift. Over on the audio side, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track really pounds. With all the air-to-air shenanigans going on during the most active moments of the film, the mix will fill your living room. If only Jerry Goldsmith's score weren't so generic. No special HD extras, though; just the imported director's commentary.
The movie is a lot cooler than I remember and President James Marshalls' "F*ck Diplomacy, Give Me That Uzi" foreign policy is righteous. The Blu-ray is a technical winner, but the dearth of extras -- a plague on catalog releases -- grates.
Not Guilty. Air Force...Won!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R