Air Force One (1997) Wolfgang Petersen’s Action Thriller Starring Harrison Ford as US President and Glen Close as VP

In Air Force One, a skillfully executed action-thriller directed by German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen (still best known for terrific underwater thriller, Das Boot), Harrison Ford, then at the height of his stardom, is well cast as James Marshall, a onetime combat hero in the Vietnam War who is now President.

Air Force One
Air Force One (movie poster).jpg

Theatrical release poster

Durng his visit to Russia/formerly the Soviet Union, Marshall gives a speech in which he supports a tough strategy against terrorists, including a right-wing general and war criminal from Kazakhstan imprisoned in Moscow. These blatant proclamations earn Marshall few friends and many more enemies in the Eastern Bloc.

While flying back to the U.S. aboard Air Force One, Marshall and his staff discover that one of the journalists returning with them is Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman, brilliant British actor), a Kazakhstani terrorist who hijacks the plane with three associates and holds the president hostage; wife and daughter are also on board.

Thus, Marshall must use all his strength and intelligence to keep the terrorists at bay, before devising plans to allow his family to escape to safety-in other words, he needs to prove that he IS commander in chief.

Meanwhile, on the ground the vice-president (Glenn Close), the secretary of defense (Dean Stockwell), and the attorney general (Philip Baker Hall) debate over what to do in this global political crisis.

The movie contains the requisite action sequences and plot twists, which Petersen handles well, but at the end, the picture, no more than a well mounted actioner, leaves a bad taste.


Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Produced by Gail Katz, Jonathan Shestack, Wolfgang Petersen, Armyan Bernstein

Written by Andrew W. MarloweMusic by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce

Production company: Beacon Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Touchstone Pictures

Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing (US), Buena Vista (International)

Release date: July 21, 1997 (Premiere, Century City); July 25, 1997 (US)

Running time: 124 minutes
Budget $85 million
Box office $315.2 million