Executive Decision (1996)
“Five miles above the earth, an elite team of six men must make an air to air transfer, in order to save 400 lives on board a 747… and 40 million below.”
Director: Stuart Baird
Cast: Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, Steven Seagal
Synopsis: When terrorists seize control of an airliner, an intelligence analyst accompanies a commando unit for a midair boarding operation.
Did you know that it’s possible to calculate the year in which a Steven Seagal film was released by the size of his waist? This is because it has followed a uniform, and apparently unstoppable, expansion from 1988 to the present day (in direct correlation with the declining quality of his output, apparently). Executive Decision was made in 1996, so it‘s reasonably decent without being anything out of the ordinary. Seagal isn’t around for long – just long enough to tersely resolve his vaguely antagonistic relationship with Kurt Russell’s character immediately before becoming one of the film’s earliest casualties. Russell wears Harold Lloyd spectacles to let us know that he’s quite a clever chap in this one.
Just as well – he needs to be, because he’s sneaking around a massive plane that’s been hijacked by a group of Arab terrorists led by bonkers David Suchet, who’s just a touch too fanatical even for his comrades. Suchet’s actually quite good as a terrorist who wears short-sleeved shirt and slacks, and looks more like an ex-florist enjoying an early retirement. Anyway, only half the Army’s crack team managed to sneak on board the besieged plane, which means their plan of attack has to be modified somewhat. To be honest, looking back it’s difficult to say how this takes up nearly 90 minutes of the film’s bloated running time, but it does. Halle Berry plays a canny stewardess who covertly aids Russell in his mission. She looks stunning, but she doesn’t have a lot to do for much of the time. It’s not difficult to see why she turned the part down until the producers upped her wage to seven figures.
While there’s nothing particularly original about Executive Decision, and the action sequences are limited to bracketing that lengthy middle section (which only fitfully succeeds in maintaining the tension necessary to hold the audience’s interest), it’s all let down a little by a finale which sees Russell’s novice light-aircraft pilot – who has only flown solo once – successfully landing a jumbo jet on a small airfield.
(Reviewed 21st February 2012)