Air Force One ★★★★

Air Force One is one of those movies that could only have been made in the 90's. The film's vision of foreign policy is simplistic and naive (at best). The dialog is perfunctory and laden with cliches, but it's in the hands of some of the best character actors of their generation in Gary Oldman, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, Philip Baker Hall, Paul Guilfoyle, and lots of other actors known on sight like Tom Everett, whom I'm pretty sure may as well have been a government official for how convincingly (and how often) he's played one. The CGI effects have not aged well at all, but the action - aided by some brisk, Oscar-nominated editing and fantastic sets - is genuinely thrilling.

On top of all this is Jerry Goldsmith's score, driving the film forward. Scenes that would otherwise have been mundane are lively, and the lively scenes become frenetic. It's a score that threads the line between ridiculously over the top and suitably grand. It's also a reminder of the contrast between composers of Goldsmith's vintage and the droning noise that constitutes scores of contemporary people like Hans Zimmer and his stable of imitators. Replace Goldsmith's pomp and circumstance with some of today's low-register white noise, and the film loses most of its charisma.

Credit also goes to Michael Ballhaus for his photography. Everything is clear and easy to follow (side glance at you, Michael Bay). The handheld camera work keeps us firmly in the middle of the situation at all times, never letting us step back and see things from a static, outsider's perspective.

Air Force One is one of those movies that, ten minutes after it finishes, can induce a wave of self-conscious embarrassment. Did you really get caught up in something so absurd? Yeah, you did, because it's a true thriller in every sense.

Oh, and that Harrison Ford guy ain't bad in it, either. He should do more action movies.

Air Force One Was Re-Ranked on My Flickchart to #269/1596