It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Harrison Ford is one of the most likable and convincing of movie stars, and he almost pulls off the impossible in "Air Force One.'' I don't mean he saves the day; I mean he almost saves the movie. Here is a good example of how star power can breathe new life into old cliches--and "Air Force One'' is rich with cliches.
You are familiar with the movie's premise because of all the commercials and coming attractions trailers and magazine covers and talk show appearances. You know that Gary Oldman plays the leader of a gang of terrorists who gain control of Air Force One as it's flying back home from Moscow. You know it's up to Ford, as President James Marshall, Vietnam combat hero, to battle the terrorists. You know his wife and children are among the hostages--and that he has just vowed that America will never negotiate with terrorists.
So. Since the movie has no macro surprises, does it have any micro ones? Has director Wolfgang Petersen ("Das Boot," "In The Line Of Fire") found lots of neat little touches to make the movie work on a minute-by-minute basis, while on the larger scale slogs to its preordained conclusion? Sorta, sometimes. There's some neat stuff about "Air Force One,'' although I don't know how much of it to believe. (Is it really bulletproof from the inside? Does it really have an escape pod onboard? Is there really a way to parachute out the back hatch? Can you really call Washington from Russia on a cell phone while airborne?) Many of the action scenes take place in the bowels of the jet, down in the galley and luggage areas.
There also is a counterplot set in Washington, where the vice president (Glenn Close) learns from the attorney general (Philip Baker Hall) that the president may be technically "incapacitated,'' and that she should consider taking over. And there are some good action sequences, in which people enter and leave airplanes at an altitude at which the practice is not recommended.