Friday, 12 August 2011

Executive Decision (1996)

Part action movie, part intelligent thriller, Executive Decision remains Steven Seagals most interesting film for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s one of the few films he has starred in that ISN’T “a Steven Seagal film” (he pretty much plays second fiddle to Kurt Russell in their few scenes together). Secondly, it’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . well, to say any more would potentially spoil an enjoyable thriller for those yet to see it.

There are some damn nasty terrorists (led by David Suchet) doing nasty, terrorising things yet again and this time they’ve taken over a large airplane and are negotiating the release of a prize prisoner. But that may be a cover for something much more dangerous, at least that’s what intelligence analyst Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell) thinks. A plan is proposed that involves a dangerous mid-air transfer, led by Seagal, and the retrieval of the plane from the terrorists. Dr. Grant will have to go along to advise on the situation but if anything goes wrong he may have to do more than just think on his feet.

Written by brothers Jim and John Thomas, Executive Decision is not a film to watch just for quick action thrills and no-brainer fun. It has some smarts and takes time to build up the situation and show every stage of the big rescue attempt. That’s why I hated the movie when I first saw it many years ago. Having recently rewatched the thing, I like quite a bit more than I did back then but it still drags in places.

Director Stuart Baird does okay. He may not have made an all-out action classic but this is a prime “Tom Clancy” type of movie from someone who deserved to go on to more than just U.S. Marshals and Star Trek: Nemesis.

The big bonus points come from the cast. Seagal is pretty good, though fans will be disappointed by his limited screentime, Russell is a favourite of mine, Halle Berry puts in one of her more enjoyable performances as an air stewardess who could prove invaluable, David Suchet makes a great baddie and then we have some wonderful moments from people like John Leguizamo, Joe Morton, Oliver Platt, J.T. Walsh and a teeny tiny part for Mary Ellen Trainor (arguably best remembered nowadays as the psychiatrist exasperated by Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon series).

It’s a bit too slow for action junkies and a bit too dumb, occasionally, for those wanting a smart thriller but Executive Decision certainly tried hard to get the mix of brainpower and firepower just right and there will be plenty of people who enjoy it more than I did. 

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