Executive Decision (1996) – Stuart Baird

Kurt Russell stars in this kinda Tom-Clancy-techno-thriller from director Stuart Baird, that not only has the awesome Russell in it, as well as Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, J.T. Walsh, and John Leguizamo – it also has Steven Seagal’s character getting killed off before the action really gets going (I call that a win, he bothers me).

Russell, in a kind of Jack Ryan role as analyst David Grant (yes I know Ryan was a Marine who was forced into a desk job by an injury) who gets pulled into action when a terrorist, Nagi Hassan (David Suchet) seizes a passenger plane and takes it hostage, five miles up!

Lt. Col Travis (Seagal) has a plan involving a stealth plane designed by Cahill (Platt) which they can use to transfer his elite team (which includes Leguizamo and Morton) onto the 747 to reclaim it before it gets into American airspace because Grant has enough evidence to support the idea that the plane may be intended as a tactical weapon as it is carrying a toxin that Travis’ team failed to recover in the film’s opening sequence; in a mission they were sent on by Grant’s information go-ahead.

Travis insists Grant come with them, as a source of on site intel (he’s the only one who can identify Hassan – but only by his voice – and their off! The transition from stealth jet to 747 doesn’t come without cost, and both Grant and Cahill find themselves out of their element helping the surviving team members take down the terrorists, with the help of a gutsy flight attendant, Jean (Berry) and an Air Marshal (Richard Riele).

While not all the model work, and effects work, those sequences pass pretty quickly as Baird keeps the pace moving along at a breakneck speed, all of it supported with a score by Jerry Goldsmith.

And honestly, I love Russell in almost everything he does, he just seems so damned likable, and putting him in a room with Seagal, you know who the better actor is immediately (It’s Russell, obviously). I know there were things behind the scenes which saw Seagal’s removal from the film, but I think it works better because of it.

Even though Russell is obviously the film’s lead, there are interesting character beats and moments for almost every member of the supporting cast, giving the story a fuller more expansive feel.

Baird, as a director, can be hit and miss for me, and he’s only done three films, but he’s a fantastic editor, and that shows on the screen, because he knows what the audience has to see, and what works and what doesn’t in the editing room.

It’s a solid actioner from the 90s that I hadn’t watched in forever, and didn’t realize how much I enjoyed. I do know I will never fly Oceanic – people get Lost or end up fighting terrorists…

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