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Sheesh. Give credit to the current spate of blockbusters—ya get the feeling that there's no way they're going to be able to outdo themselves in terms of sheer action. I mean, next summer, they're either going to have to blow up the solar system or else retreat into gentle period pieces about the French Restoration. After seeing the President of the United States holding on to a strap hanging out the back of a B-52 bomber going 900 miles per hour, I'm ready for an isolation tank.
The storyboard for "Air Force One" is deceptively complicated: Harrison Ford stars as a president who delivers a tough anti-terrorist message at a dinner in Moscow. Of course, his plane is hijacked on the way home by old-school Communist Gary Oldman, setting into motion a chain of events that leads to the probable prison release of an old war hero that could trigger World War III. The movie plays upon the battle within President Ford (Harrison, that is), between his anti-terrorist principles, and the love he has for his family. Manipulative, true, but wrenchingly effective. Director Wolfgang Petersen, who practically invented the modern action genre with "Das Boot," never lets this one get away from him. He makes Gary Oldman play it straight, which twists the menacing villian into a figure more realistic than any other antagonists in like-minded movies ("Executive Decision," the later "Die Hard" flicks). Oldman's love for his country, and the enraged shame he feels for what America has wrought, brings those old Cold War feelings right back to the moviegoing conscious. All the scenes in Russia, especially in the crowded gulag, show Petersen at his strongest.
But that's not really why we're watching, is it? There's enough plane explosions, fisticuffs and harrowing escapes to make this movie a constant adrenalin boost. Harrison Ford looks great (after seeming a bit old in "Sabrina") and Glenn Close, as his trusted Vice President, has a steely determination that lends a bit of trust to the movie's whacked-out sensibilities. This plane is suspended aloft by your disbelief, and the ride is a turbulent armrest-gripper.
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