Classic Intel: Air Force One - Online Review

'Abraham Lincoln: 'Ruski Hunter''

A clear example of patriotic flag waving in 1990s American cinema, Air Force One comes just after Harrison Ford's Jack Ryan films, Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger, and can be seen as a loose continuation of their themes, tropes and even characters. James Marshall (Ford) may be a president, but he still ends up doing just what Ryan does in the prior films; protecting the nation against any threats, domestic or foreign.

Perhaps ill-advisedly, Air Force One could be about to acquire some contemporary significance, with two 'attack the President' films coming out this year in the shape of White House-invasion flicks White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen. Surely the time for that sort of thing was more favourable in 1997 but regardless, the difference starts with the fact that Wolfgang Petersen's Thriller is 90% airborne, relatively claustrophobic and puts Ford in the position of having to save the secret service, rather than the other way round. Abraham Lincoln: 'Ruski Hunter', then.

Quite how much of the flag waving you manage to take might well be the deciding factor in whether this stands up to your rose-tinted memory of it. Red, white and blue are everywhere. There's more than one triumphal speech and the arrival of the baddies is cued in constantly by some impressively booming Communist music, whilst an equally soaring orchestra takes us away on a magic carpet (red, white and blue) of steadfastness and earnest gurning from Ford.

The real things that have dated, if you can take all of that, come as little surprise. The effects, particularly come the end, are genuinely shocking, even for this period. The script, when it's not throwing patriotic speeches at you from any one of twenty or so mouths, is giving you minutiae-level exposition in triplicate, just in case you missed the state our protagonist is in ('they can't control the plane, the engine is failing and they're losing fuel'). The characterisation is wafer-thin at even the best of times and completely none-existent in one case. If anyone can spot the motivation for Xander Berkeley's actions being revealed then you've got a keener eye than this viewer.

This remains a fun slice of action cinema though, weighed down though it is by time passed and the failings of a director whose American studio productions are routed firmly in this era of cinema.

Air Force One is available on LOVEFiLM Instant.

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