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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/14/98

Air Force One
1997 (1997) - Columbia/TriStar

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Air Force One Film Rating: B+
Excellent, non-stop action and good fun.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A+/B
Solid disc features and superb quality. Among the better DVDs yet released.

Overall Rating: A
Don't miss this disc. A must-have for DVD fans.

Specs and Features

125 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary by Wolfgang Peterson, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus, scene access (35 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), French (DD 2.0), Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Close Captioned


Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman square off at 30,000 feet in this terrific actioner about the hijacking of the First Plane. The President (Ford), while on a visit to Moscow, has just placed the bad guys of the world on alert - the U.S. will no longer tolerate, or negotiate with, terrorists. But wouldn't you know it, a group of Russian radicals posing as a TV news crew (and lead with great zeal by Oldman), has managed to hitch a ride on the President's return trip. Shortly into the flight, the bad guys (with the help of a traitorous Secret Service Agent) manage to wrest control of the 747, and take the First Family and forty other passengers hostage. But the President, now a stowaway on his own plane, engages in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse to prove that he can back up his tough talk, and save the lives of those closest to him.

As with all action films, Air Force One requires some suspension of disbelief by the audience. Could terrorists really get aboard the President's plane, even with inside help? Unlikely. And why did that Agent go bad anyway? We'll never know. But, Ford is entirely believable as the President (don't you just wish we really had a guy this cool in the White House?). Back in Washington, Glenn Close is equally good as the VP. And the leads are backed by a solid supporting cast (including William H. Macy of Fargo fame), the deft direction of Wolfgang Peterson (In the Line of Fire, Das Boot, Outbreak) and nail-biting aerial effects sequences that keep the action fast and furious until the very end. My only complaint about Air Force One (aside from one effects shot, which you can probably guess, but which I won't name for fear of giving away the ending) is this - how in the world will Harrison Ford ever go back to his Jack Ryan role in the Tom Clancy films after playing the President of the United States?

As far as disc quality, Air Force One rates highly. The picture quality is excellent, aside from a bit of minor artifacting seen occasionally in the night time clouds, and a few brief shots of the plane on the ground in Moscow (usually involving blue-green tints which MPEG 2 has difficulty encoding). Side A is presented in 16x9 anamorphically-enhanced widescreen (a necessity for any excellent DVD), which down-converts nicely to 2.35:1 letterbox for regular TVs. Side B contains a full frame version, for those who prefer it (the film was shot in Super 35 and matted for theatrical release, so while the full frame version is a different viewing experience, it does not have the usual 'pan & scan' feel). The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is every bit equal to the picture (check out the surround during the fighter battle if you doubt me!). The 2.0 Pro Logic sound is also good, if lacking in surround depth, and additional sound is available in French and Spanish. Subtitles come in English, French and Spanish. The interactive menus are visually pleasing and reflect the film poster artwork. 35 Chapters are available. Total Running Time is approx. 125 minutes. And for serious film buffs, a theatrical trailer (of good quality) is available on the disc, as is an interesting commentary track by director Wolfgang Peterson. If you've never listened to a director's track on a movie before, you should now. Some directors are better at it than others, and Peterson is among the best. You can tell he simply loves talking about his films. His commentary is filled with fascinating stories, anecdotes and insights into the actors and filmmaking process.

Bottom line

If you pass on Air Force One, you're missing out on a great DVD. Enough said.

Bill Hunt
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