Executive Decision

*****

Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

In the modern world, Exec Dec strikes closer to home than originally intended as it eerily foreshadows 9/11 and other acts of terrorism. It makes a perfect flip-side companion piece to Paul Greengrass's little-seen United 93. In the world of Exec Dec, the heroes save the day and America wins. In United 93 (and the real world) life isn't that simple. But since this was made five years prior to 9/11, it should be judged purely as entertainment and not as any political statement.

Kurt Russell plays David Grant, a counter-terrorist expert who is called into the Pentagon when a group of crazed Muslim extremists taken over a flight from Athens to Washington DC. After blowing up civilians in London, they demand that their recently captured terrorist leader El Sayed Jaffa (think O.B.L.) be released and that they be given millions of dollars in gold bullion. Grant, suspects this is merely a ploy to get into US airspace to set off a massive bomb rigged with huge supply of DZ-5 poison gas.

Their only apparent option is to blow the plane up over the Atlantic, killing everyone on-board and sinking any evidence that they might have. But Colonel Travis (that's Steven Seagal folks!) suggests hooking up the 747 with a modified Remora stealth bomber while it's still in the air so he and his commandos can kick some terrorist ass. Dragged along for the ride, Grant and computer nerd Dennis Cahill (Oliver Platt) are to supervise the link-up and identify Cell Leader Nagi Hassan (David Suchet) from the Remora. But the link-up falters and only four commandos plus Grant and Cahill make it on-board. Travis is killed and the Remora is destroyed, along with most of their equipment.

With only a few hours before the plane reaches US airspace and the bare-minimum of equipment the group have to sneak around in the crawlspaces of airplane attics, cargo bays and elevator shafts searching for the bomb and spying on the terrorists.

It's highly intense, superbly photographed and expertly edited entertainment. What first attracted me to Exec Dec was obviously the casting of Russell and Seagal but link-up with the Remora and the 747 is definitely one of the most unique action scenes in the past decade and was the major selling point of the film for me. The only real weak point of the film is Jerry Goldsmith's merely above average score. It's good, but he was known for much better output.

I realise Seagal has many critics and most of them judge him far, far to harshly and play up his character's death in this film, claiming that the only good thing about Exec Dec is 'the death of Seagal 10 minutes into an extended cameo'. Which is a totally foolish and untrue thing to say. Seagal is in the movie for a full 45 minutes before he dies. Which was done to shock the audience into believing that if Seagal dies, then any of the cast could be next. And even if you're a Seagal hater (understandable considering his recent poor output) don't let that overshadow the rest of the film which is, in it's final half-hour, so exciting that you'll be so on the edge of your seat that you won't actually be sitting on it.

It does lose some of it's power when compared to the horror-show that is United 93, but like I said, they are either side of the same coin. In the world of Executive Decision the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would never have happened. And if 9/11 was an always inevitable event, then I guess the film IS far-fetched. But it was made pre-9/11 for entertainment, nothing else, so I guess I can forgive it for being so. As far-fetched as the movie itself, I do award it The Gator MacReady Claw of Approval.

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2006
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A counter-terrorist agent tries to disarm extremist plane-hijackers
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Director: Stuart Baird

Writer: Jim Thomas, John Thomas

Starring: Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Steven Seagal, David Suchet, J.T. Walsh, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, B D Wong

Year: 1996

Runtime: 134 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

United 93