Executive Decision (1996) – Review

3 Stars

Executive Decision is most likely remembered as the movie that killed Steven Seagal. The action-icon is iced in the film’s first act and audience never seemed to recover from the marketing bait & switch that promised a Delta Force like vehicle for Seagal, but was actually a taunt thriller starring Kurt Russell, Oliver Platt, John Leguizamo, and B.D. Wong. Names that don’t immediately spring to mind when pitching Die Hard on a plane.

Islamic terrorists have hijack a plane traveling from Greece to Washington, D.C.. The lives of the 400 American on-board including a Presidential candidate (J.T. Walsh) are in grave peril. The pentagon calls in terrorist expert David Grant (Kurt Russell) and teams him with Lt. Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal), they are tasked with covertly boarding the aircraft, defusing the explosive device on board, neutralizing the aggressors, and bringing the plane home safely.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is forced to make a decision that could cost them the lives of everyone on the plane. With the aircraft approaching America, the executive branch must decided whether to shoot down the threat or possibly threaten the lives of everyone in the Washington D.C. area.

A crack team of commandos (John Leguzamo, Whip Hubly, B.D. Wong) enlist Grant to aid in their plan of attack. Their presence in the lower galley of the craft goes unnoticed largely due to the help from a courageous flight attendant (Halle Berry), who risks her life more times than the soldiers sent to protect her.

Executive Decision had the mis-fortune of premiering within weeks of Broken Arrow. That film had the cool factor going for it. Travolta was hot again and director John Woo was visually redefining the genre. Executive Decision is downright bland in direct comparison. There is nothing flashy or sexy about this military procedural. But it’s a solid bit of filmmaking that recalls the old-school talents of gifted filmmakers like Andrew Davis and Wolfgang Peterson. Directors that toiled away in a unmagnanimous genre, but elevated the material due to their professional craftsmanship. Stuart Baird moves from the editing bay to the director’s chair, and it’s clear to see why Warner Bros. entrusted their Fugitive sequel, U.S. Marshals, to him. A thunderous score from Jerry Goldsmith sets an appropriate jingoistic mood.

Director: Stuart Baird
Stars: Kurt Russell, John Leguizamo, Steven Seagal

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