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Air Force One (1997) Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 June 2009
ImageThere is no mistaking it, "Air Force One" is a true action thriller.  I remember having gone to see the film in theaters, but I really didn't remember the film itself at all.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down and watched this film.  It is action-packed from beginning to end.  Before watching it I dismissed the film as another "Executive Decision" or "Die Hard."  However, "Air Force One" holds its own.

Harrison Ford stars as the President of the United States, James Marshall.  Marshall allies the US with Russia to capture a terrorist leader from Kazashtan who is plotting to overthrow the Russian government.  After a banquet in Moscow, the president heads back to Air Force One.  Immediately we know who the bad guys are as they are given special attention.  The president is soon joined by his family, a wife and daughter.

Shortly after take off a secret service agent initiates the hijack by murdering the secret service team.  The four terrorists grab the guns and open fire on the passengers.  Some die, some live, all are locked in the conference room.  During the attack, the president was rushed to the emergency escape pod.  It doesn't take long for us to figure out that the president didn't get in the escape pod.  He is instead still on the aircraft.

Marshall is an ex-military soldier and pretty much single handedly takes out all the terrorists.  Marshall is concerned for his family.  Trapped below decks he tries to figure out a way to get the plane to land.  He tries to make the plane dump fuel in mid air but he is thwarted and the terrorists demand that Air Force One be re-fueled in midair.

The terrorists simply want for their captured Kazashtan leader to be freed.  The Russian leader will not let this happen unless he can be certain that it will save the life of the president.  Unfortunately, evidence of that is not immediately available.  Meanwhile, President Marshall is able to make his way to the conference room to rescue the hostages.  They make their way to the lower deck where they can open the parachute ramp and jump from the plane.  First, the plane must fall in altitude to 15,000 feet, which happens to be handled by the midair refueling procedure.

Most of the hostages are able to jump from the plane.  However, they are stopped before everyone can safely jumped so some more hostages do perish.  With still one half of an hour left in the film the final terrorist dies because we all know that the betraying secret service agent still needs to be dealt with.  Unable to land the plane do to some damage to the wings, a daring midair rescue is attempted.  We all know how it turns out, but the journey is exhilarating. Wolfgang Petersen directs this film and uses his previous suspense creating abilities from films such as "In the Line of Fire" and "Outbreak," to successfully carry us through this film.  Harrison Ford does a fine job as the President of the US.  He demonstrates an ability to balance running the nation and being a father and husband.  Gary Oldman is a little over top as the lead terrorist.  Glenn Close plays the vice president and does her part well, even though the writers made her character a bit wishy-washy.  She is strong one moment and weak the next.  Nonetheless, the entire cast works well together.

"Air Force One" comes to Blu-ray with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and MPEG-4 AVC encode.  The film is above average when compared to other films of the mid to late 1990s.  The first major issue with the image quality is the massive amount of film grain.  However, I finally settled into it and it provided a nice film-like quality.  The second issue with the image is the level of details.  The details are all obscured by a layer of fuzz.  Details are okay, but nearly good enough for Blu-ray.  The CGI effects in the film are more distinguished and thus less powerful, one of the drawbacks to older films on the Blu-ray format.  Colors are also hidden by the blurry nature of the image, but are vibrant in the more defined sequences.  Fleshtones appear to be consistent, if not slightly pale.  Black levels sometimes become weak, but overall they provide a real depth to the image.  There are no artifacts or edge enhancement present on this Blu-ray.  This is a terrific upgrade form the standard DVD.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  While the transfer is near flawless, it gets dinged big time because it is in desperate need of a remix.  From beginning to end the surround channels are fully engaged.  I was taken back by the use of the surround channels.  Gunfire, jet engines, ambience, all is present in the rear channels.  Even the speech given by President Marshall contains great reverb dispersion in the surrounds.  The dialogue is a little weak but clearly audible.  The LFE channel rumbles throughout the film once the hijacking occurs.  The frequency response is missing a bit of the high-end to smooth out the mix.  Here's the problem with the audio track - there is severe distortion.  When the jet engines and gunfire are all playing at once the mix is overloaded.  Clipping and digital distortion are overwhelming.  I didn't even have my system turned to reference level and it was horrid.  Nonetheless, the audio track is enveloping and engaging and I highly recommend it for that reason.

The only special feature on the Blu-ray disc is an audio commentary by director Wolfgang Petersen.  Wolfgang offers basic information and is a decent track but that's about it.  The disc is also enabled with BD-Live and has some theatrical trailers.

"Air Force One" is not an original piece of creative work, however it is still entertaining.  The audio and video quality is above average and far better than the original standard DVD.  This is a disc that you should definitely check out.

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