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Air Force One

Air Force One (film)

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Air Force One

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Produced by Armyan Bernstein
Thomas Bliss
Gail Katz
Jonathan Shestack
Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe
Starring Harrison Ford
Gary Oldman
Glenn Close
Dean Stockwell
Xander Berkeley
William H. Macy
Paul Guilfoyle
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Editing by Richard Francis-Bruce
Studio Beacon Pictures
Distributed by Columbia Pictures(United States)
Touchstone Pictures
Buena Vista International(International)
Release date(s)
  • July 25, 1997 (1997-07-25)
Running time 124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $85 million
Box office $315,156,409

Air Force One is a 1997 American action-thriller film written by Andrew W. Marlowe and directed by Wolfgang Petersen. It stars Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, and Glenn Close as well as the following actors: Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell and Paul Guilfoyle. It was rated R by the MPAA for its "intense violence".


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
  • 4 Reception
  • 5 Score
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


The film begins with a joint special operations mission composed of Russian Spetsnaz and American Delta Force operatives to capture General Ivan Radek, the dictator of a "terrorist regime" in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Three weeks later, James Marshall, the President of the United States, gives a speech at a state dinner in Moscow, telling the world that the United States will no longer negotiate with terrorists or fail to intervene in dictatorial regimes (a subplot that seems to reference the Bosnian and Kosovo Wars). Afterwards, Marshall, much of his Cabinet and his advisors board Air Force One to return to the U.S. Just before takeoff, they are joined by Marshall's family, First Lady Grace and First Daughter Alice. Meanwhile, six Kazakh terrorists, led by Ivan Korshunov and posing as a Russian news crew, have boarded the plane and shortly after take-off are able to hijack the plane and kill several people with help from Gibbs, a mole in the Secret Service. Agents hustle a reluctant Marshall to the escape pod before Korshunov's men can capture him. In the cockpit, the pilots attempt to make an emergency landing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. However, the hijackers breach the cockpit, shoot the pilots, and set course for Kazakhstan.

Korshunov gathers the remaining passengers into the conference room and contacts the White House Situation Room, where he speaks to Vice President Kathryn Bennett. He demands that they arrange for Radek's release in exchange for the President's family. Until their demands to release Radek are met, the terrorists threaten to execute hostages every half hour. National Security Advisor Jack Doherty is the first to be executed, and Grace and Alice are taken up to the cockpit as separate hostages.

Marshall’s escape pod is discovered to be empty; he is actually still on board. It was also revealed that Marshall was a Vietnam Veteran, and a Medal of Honor recipient. After Marshall kills two of Korshunov's men, Korshunov responds by murdering Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell in front of Marshall's terrified family and over the intercom. Hiding from Korshunov in the avionics bay, Marshall is able to initiate a dump of Air Force One's fuel reserve. This forces Korshunov to demand a mid-air refueling.

Marshall sneaks back into the conference room where the passengers are being held and escorts them to the parachute bay. Most of the hostages escape via parachute, until they are discovered by one of Korshunov's men. The resulting chaos caused depressurization of the parachute bay, and several people are sucked out of the plane without parachutes, meeting their deaths (the parachute-less people being the Secret Service agents who just volunteered to stay with Marshall). It also disrupts the refueling process, setting the refueling plane's fuel reserve on fire and causing it to explode in midair.

Korshunov takes Marshall hostage, as well as Major Caldwell, Gibbs and Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd and threatens to kill Alice unless he agrees to call Russian President Petrov and demand Radek's release. As Radek prepares to leave prison, Marshall breaks free and kills the last two of Korshunov's men. Korshunov drags Grace down to the cargo bay, where he throws all the remaining parachutes overboard, except for the one he is wearing. In the ensuing fight, Marshall wraps a cord around Korshunov's neck, says "Get off my plane!", and opens the parachute, which breaks Korshunov's neck, and his dead body floats away off the plane. With all of the hijackers dead and regaining control of the plane, Marshall halts the release of Radek, who is fatally shot from all sides as he tries to escape.

Marshall takes control of the plane’s controls, turning it toward the nearest airbase. Back at the White House, Bennett discovers six Kazakh MiG-29s fighter planes piloted by Radek loyalists in pursuit and warns Marshall. A squadron of F-15s arrive and fight off the MiGs, with one pilot sacrificing himself to stop a missile from hitting the plane, but in the ensuing explosion, Air Force One is left so badly damaged, it is unable to land safely and is leaking fuel.

An Air Force Pararescue MC-130 Hercules plane is hastily tasked to zip-line Marshall and the remaining passengers from the plane before it hits the water. Marshall insists that his family be rescued first, as well as a wounded Shepherd. The last engine fails and when the final rescuer states he can only evacuate one more, Gibbs pulls a gun and kills both the rescuer and Caldwell, revealing his true identity. Marshall is able to subdue Gibbs before the steel cable detaches from the plane with the President secured. Air Force One finally crashes head-on into the Caspian Sea, breaking in half and kills Gibbs. The country celebrates as the President is winched to safety, and Marshall embraces his family and salutes the crew of the Hercules, who change their call sign to Air Force One.


  • Harrison Ford as President James Marshall
  • Gary Oldman as Egor Korshunov
  • Glenn Close as Vice President Kathryn Bennett
  • Wendy Crewson as Grace Marshall
  • Liesel Matthews as Alice Marshall
  • Dean Stockwell as Secretary of Defense Walter Dean
  • Elya Baskin as Andrei Kolchak
  • Levan Uchaneishvili as Sergei Lenski
  • David Vadim as Igor Nevsky
  • Andrew Divoff as Boris Bazylev
  • Ilia Volok as Vladimir Krasin
  • Paul Guilfoyle as White House Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd
  • Xander Berkeley as United States Secret Service Agent Gibbs
  • William H. Macy as Major Caldwell
  • Alan Woolf as Russian President Petrov
  • Tom Everett as National Security Advisor Jack Doherty
  • Jürgen Prochnow as General Ivan Radek
  • Donna Bullock as Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell
  • Michael Ray Miller as Colonel Axelrod
  • Carl Weintraub as Lieutenant Colonel Ingraham
  • Spencer Garrett as White House Aide Thomas Lee
  • Bill Smitrovich as General Northwood
  • Glenn Morshower as Agent Walters
  • David Gianopoulos as Agent Johnson
  • Dan Shor as Notre Dame Aide
  • Philip Baker Hall as U.S. Atty. General Andrew Ward
  • Richard Doyle as Colonel Bob Jackson, A.F.O. Backup Pilot
  • Willard Pugh as White House Communications Officer
  • Don R. McManus as Colonel Jack Carlton, F-15 "Halo Flight" Leader


A large part of the crew took a tour of the real Air Force One before filming. They based some of the scenes in the film, where the terrorists disguised as journalists survey the layout of the plane and begin to take their seats, on the touring experience. The character of Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell was based largely on their real life tour guide, and the crew felt uncomfortable having to film the character's execution by the terrorists.[1]

Scenes explaining why Agent Gibbs was the mole were cut from the final script. According to director Wolfgang Petersen, Gibbs was a former CIA agent who lost a lot after the end of the Cold War, and thus became angry with the American government.[1] The hijackers never reveal to anyone Gibbs' true identity, to the point where they also tie him up along with President Marshall, Major Caldwell, and Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd.

Gary Oldman did not stay in character between the scenes. The director later said he called the filming experience 'Air Force Fun' because of how comedic and genial Oldman would be off-screen. He also said that Oldman would suddenly return to the menacing film persona like a shot.[1]


Air Force One received generally positive reviews from critics, with an overall approval "Certified Fresh" rating of 78% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[2] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film 3.5/4 stars, describing it as "superior escapism", and concluding, "Air Force One doesn't insult the audience. It is crafted by a film-maker who takes pride in the thrills and sly fun he packs into every frame. Welcome to something rare in a summer of crass commercialism: a class act."[3] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing, "The movie is well-served by the quality of the performances." "Air Force One is a fairly competent recycling of familiar ingredients, given an additional interest because of Harrison Ford's personal appeal."[4] Conversely, The Independent called it "so preposterous that it begins to seem like a science-fiction artifact…the product of a parallel-universe 1990s which somehow by-passed the decades since the 1950s."[5]

The film was a major box office success, earning $172,650,002 (54.9%) domestically and $142,200,000 (45.1%) in other countries[6] It grossed a total of $315,156,409 worldwide in the box office.[7] It was the 5th highest-grossing film of the year worldwide.[8]

President Bill Clinton saw the film twice while in office and gave it good reviews. He noted, however, that certain elements of the film's plane, such as the escape pod and the rear parachute ramp, did not reflect actual features of Air Force One.[9] In the audio commentary, Wolfgang Petersen reflected that although the real plane did not have those features at the time of the filming, it would—according to him—be probably added by future governments. However, because of the highly classified nature of Air Force One's security features, the possibility of the capsule and parachute ramp existing cannot be completely ruled out.

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; one for Best Film Editing, the other for Best Sound (Paul Massey, Rick Kline, Doug Hemphill and Keith A. Wester).[10]


Randy Newman was initially hired to write the film score; however, Petersen considered his version to be almost a parody and commissioned Jerry Goldsmith to write and record a more sombre and patriotic score in just twelve days (with an assist from Joel McNeely).[11][12] After the harried experience, Goldsmith vowed never again to take on such a last-minute task.[13]

Newman used some of his material from the rejected score in Toy Story 3.[14]

Varese Sarabande released a soundtrack album featuring Goldsmith's music (McNeely receives a credit on the back cover for "Additional Music in the Motion Picture," but none of his work is on the CD).

  1. The Parachutes (5:14)
  2. The Motorcade (2:40)
  3. Empty Rooms (4:02)
  4. The Hijacking (7:30)
  5. No Security (2:59)
  6. Free Flight (4:41)
  7. Escape From Air Force One (5:25)
  8. Welcome Aboard, Sir (2:06)


  1. ^ a b c Wolfgang Petersen audio commentary.
  2. ^ "Air Force One Movie Reviews, Pictures — Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  3. ^ Travers, Peter. "Air Force One". Rolling Stone. July 25, 1997. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Air Force One". Chicago Sun-Times. July 25, 1997. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  5. ^ Mars-Jones, Adam (September 11, 1997). "Get me out of here - Air Force One - Review - The Independent". London. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
  6. ^ "G.I. Jane' Proves Its Mettle in Second Week at Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. September 2, 1997. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  7. ^ "Air Force One — Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information — The Numbers". The Numbers. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The Dark Side of Gary Oldman. "Air Force One (1997)"". Garyoldman.twistedlogic.nl. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  10. ^ "The 70th Academy Awards (1998) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  11. ^ Southall, James. "Jonathan Broxton, Air Force One (rejected score) (review) from Movie Music U.K., 1998". Moviemusicuk.us. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved August 21, 2009. [dead link]
  12. ^ ""Air Force One (rejected score)" (review) from Soundtrack Express, 1998". Soundtrack Express. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Christian Clemmensen, "Air Force One (review) from Film Tracks, 1997". Filmtracks.com. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Newman: Toy Story 3". movie-wave.net. 2010. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 

External links

  • Air Force One at the Internet Movie Database
  • Air Force One at the TCM Movie Database
  • Air Force One at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Air Force One at AllRovi
    • "Air Force One Movie Gallery". class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved October 5, 2010. [dead link]
    • "Ivan Korshunov character information at Villain Abode.com". class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved October 5, 2010. 
    • "Air Force One as Political Communication". class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved October 5, 2010.