Executive Decision (1996)

Stuart Baird directs Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal and Halle Berry in this action thriller where a special forces team breach a mid-Atlantic flight that has been taken hostage.

This is more like it – though I suspect the dull title shaved $100 million off the middling box office. CABIN PRESSURE! SEALS ON A PLANE! BREACHERS! Anything might have sounded more dynamic and enticing to the multiplex crowds that two random words than happen to crop up in the script once in a scene featuring none of the stars. Russell tries out a Jack Ryan type role… the analyst we know will step up when the bullets start flying. The tuxedo and glasses cosplay is a strange fit for Snake Plissken but it works. Halle Berry enjoys her most screen time yet, relishing a role where she gets to display some emotions rather than just cleavage. David Suchet is an unmemorable villain – avoiding ham and relatively sensible in his apocalyptic fanaticism. Oliver Platt makes a little out of a lot with “the scientist who gets stuck with the commandos by mistake” nerd role. And Steven Seagal… well either you know about that first act twist by now or you don’t… but it is still, 25 years later, an absolute doozy. Beyond THAT infamous moment, Executive Decision is actually quite a dry game of cat-and-mouse. The pyrotechnics and bullet ballets are constantly threatened but the bulk of the narrative sees everyone waiting on edge until the villains are in the only probable position where a takedown will work. Problem solving takes precedent over kung-fu. We are gripped by trying to figure out which passenger has the dead man’s switch, how to disable the bomb, which compartment Suchet’s leader will be in and how to stop the US airforce from shooting the flight down when we no longer have radio contact. It does result in a whole hour where the heroes seemingly bicker behind luggage endlessly and that ain’t exactly Die Hard! Executive Decision works best as a disaster movie first, a thriller second and action flick distant last. It is a strange combination – hidden in solid Warner Bros clothing, full of unpredictable moments. Some work (Platt’s amateur bomb disposal, Seagal’s surprise), others stick out like sore thumbs (the flashback sequence to Suchet’s introduction that seemingly happens from Russell’s imagined POV). But the lavish production coalesces into a workable and pleasingly erratic slice of hokum.

7

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

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