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Wolfgang Petersen
Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, William H. Macy, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley
Writing Credits:
Andrew W. Marlowe

Impenetrable. Invincible. In Trouble.

The fate of the nation rests on the courage of one man. Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman star in two-time Oscar® nominee Wolfgang Petersen's gripping thriller about an uncompromising U.S. President who has just told the world he will not negotiate with terrorists. When Russian neo-nationalists hijack Air Force One, the world's most secure and extraordinary aircraft, the President is faced with a nearly impossible decision to give in to terrorist demands or sacrifice not only the country's dignity,but the lives of his wife and daughter.

Box Office:
$85 million.
Opening Weekend
$37.132 million on 2919 screens.
Domestic Gross
$172.620 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.40:1
English Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 124 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 6/2/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Air Force One [Blu-Ray] (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 2, 2009)

In his synopsis of Air Force One, Dave Letterman phrased it best: Harrison Ford, the ass-kicking president!

It's such a great "high concept" idea that I'm amazed no one thought it up before Air Force One hit movie screens in 1997. Over the prior decade, we saw multiple variations on the Die Hard theme: Die Hard on a bus, Die Hard on a plane, Die Hard on a train, Die Hard on a boat, Die Hard on a donkey - you name it. There didn't seem to be many places left to go, so the creators of Air Force One took the concept and gave it a twist: instead of using a cop or similar character to play the protagonist, let's make it the president!

Actually, the idea of an action hero president wasn't really original, since Independence Day did it a year earlier. However, in that case, the president's role in the plot seemed much less important; certainly, Bill Pullman's character played a key role, but unlike Ford’s President Jim Marshall, he wasn't the focal point of the entire story.

As discussed in the liner notes that come with the original DVD, the list of actors who could truly come across as believable as both president and action hero started and ended with one name: Pauly Shore. However, he wasn't available, so they took Harrison Ford.

Okay, that first part isn't true, though the idea seems sound to me. According to the production notes, the producers actually considered making the hero the vice-president since that possibility opened up additional acting options. For an ass-kicking president, they felt that Harrison Ford was the only man for the job.

I have to agree with that point. While I'm sure there are a number of actors who could do well with the role, clearly the producers wanted a "name" actor to play it and I can't think of any notable performers other than Ford who could succeed in the part. Plenty of guys could play the president or an action hero, but not both. Even Pullman, who did it before, would have been a bust in this role.

Solid casting seems to be a hallmark of films made by Wolfgang Petersen, and Air Force One is no exception. In addition to Ford, we get a cast that includes Glenn Close, Gary Oldman, William H. Macy, Xander Berkeley and Dean Stockwell. The only real unknowns in main parts are Wendy Crewson as the First Lady and Liesel Matthews as their daughter.

All actors acquit themselves professionally in their parts, but none other than Ford and Oldman really stand out from the crowd. There's a reason Harrison Ford is possibly the most commercially successful actor ever: what's there to dislike about him? When was the last time you talked to your friends about movies and someone chimed up that they were sick of Harrison Ford or that he annoyed them? While I'm sure it happens, I'm also certain that such conversations occur much less regularly than they do for other "A"-list actors like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. Ford is simply a totally likable and professional actor who richly deserves all his success.

Gary Oldman also rarely gives less than a good showing in his movies, but that's where the comparisons to Ford end. While Ford has been something of a modern Gary Cooper in his roles, Oldman comes across more like a male Meryl Streep with the wide variety of characters and nationalities he plays. While he may not completely take over every part he plays, I find Oldman to almost always be very watchable and compelling. He's one of the best actors working today, and he's one of the few "name" actors who can really seem to lose himself in a part; I spend much less time thinking of him as "Gary Oldman" than I do if I watch, say, Jack Nicholson (who I always think of as “Gary Oldman”).

As I mentioned earlier, "A"-list casting is one given of a Wolfgang Petersen film. Another is that while his films are always solidly constructed and quite professional, they rarely transcend the genre to become truly exceptional. His efforts usually provide compelling action and easily maintain an audience's interest for two hours, but I don't feel that any of them ever does anything remarkable enough to merit inclusion with classics of the genre such as Die Hard or Aliens. Those films were truly special and they influenced many films over the years. While Petersen's movies can be good entertainment, they never go past that to give the audience anything new; they're tremendously well executed and competent, but they lack a spark that could take them to another level.

But this shouldn't be interpreted as a tremendous slight, because seminal movies of the kind listed come along so rarely. At least when you see the name Wolfgang Petersen attached to a film you know it'll be well-done and reasonably compelling, and Air Force One fits that mold well.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus C

Air Force One appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not without its charms, the transfer generally seemed ordinary.

Most of my complaints related to sharpness. Though the film didn’t usually appear soft, it also failed to deliver very good definition. Fine detail tended to be lacking, as the movie came with lackluster clarity and delineation much of the time. A smidgen of edge enhancement appeared, but I saw no problems related to moiré effects or jagged edges. In regard to print flaws, only a speck or two appeared. The film did tend to be more grainy than average, though.

Air Force One featured a pretty subdued palette. The vast majority of the film took place in office spaces, whether in the White House or on the jet, and these didn’t lend themselves to bright, vivid hues. Nonetheless, colors looked clear and accurate throughout the movie, and when we did see some more intense tones – such as via roses at the start of the film – they looked nicely vibrant and lush.

Black levels caused some concerns during Air Force One. I thought dark tones came across as a little mushy and flat at times, particularly during exterior shots. Shadow detail seemed to be reasonably clear, though some interiors suffered slightly from the moderately bland blacks and they could be a little murky at times. All of these issues meant that I thought the film merited a “C+” for its visuals.

On the other hand, I found little to complain about in regard to the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Air Force One. From start to finish, this was a stellar affair. The soundfield presented a very active and aggressive piece that pushed the limits of all five channels.

The film’s score showed fine stereo separation as well as a strong presence from the surround channels, and effects usage seemed to be quite solid. Elements popped from all around the viewer, and localization appeared excellent, as these elements always came from logical places. The audio blended together well to create a seamless and involving environment that was consistently broad and engaging. From the loud aspects of the track to the natural jet ambience, the entire package seemed very strong.

Audio quality seemed to be solid as well. Despite the high level of looped dialogue, the speech sounded natural and distinct throughout the film; I detected only slight signs of edginess and no problems related to intelligibility. Effects were quite clean and accurate, and they showed fine dynamic range; gunfire, explosions, and jet flying noises all appeared crisp and free from distortion, and they boasted positive low-end when appropriate. The bright and powerful score also showed fine dynamics. Ultimately, this was an excellent soundtrack that made the film more satisfying.

Don’t expect many extras here. The prime attraction is an audio commentary from director Wolfgang Petersen. Aided by two moderators, Petersen offers a running, screen-specific track. He discusses cast and performances, sets and locations, action and stunts, various effects, script and rewrites, recreating Air Force One, music and sound design.

Petersen provides a very chatty piece that proves to be generally informative. I’m not wild about his tendency to dwell on the nature of the film’s planes; Petersen loves to tell us when it’s a model, CG or real, but his obsession doesn’t become compelling listening. Nonetheless, he’s a perky participant, and he offers enough decent material to make this a sporadically useful piece.

The disc opens with a few ads. We get promos for Damages and The International. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for The Devil’s Own, Lakeview Terrace, Vantage Point, Casino Royale, Rocky Balboa, XXX and 88 Minutes. No trailer for Air Force One shows up here.

As a film, Air Force One feels mechanical and forced at times, but it offers a reasonably exciting and entertaining experience. There’s nothing particularly creative at work here, but it’s a professional and enjoyable piece. The Blu-ray boasts excellent audio but picture quality seems average and the disc comes without many extras. This is a fairly mediocre release for a moderately compelling film.

To rate this film visit the Superbit Edition review of AIR FORCE ONE

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