Air Force One (1997)

Film and Plot Synopsis

A thriller about a steadfast United States President who has just told the world he will not negotiate with terrorists. Now, Russian neo-nationalists have hijacked Air Force One with the hope that they will be able to negotiate the release of a violent Russian dictator from prison. The President is now faced with a nearly impossible decision: give in to terrorist demands or sacrifice not only the country’s dignity, but the lives of his wife and daughter.

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‘Air Force One’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Air Force One (1997)Air Force One begins with a combined United States – Russian Special Forces operation that abducts General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow) from his bedroom. Radek is the evil dictator of Kazakhstan. Three weeks later, the United States President, James Marshall (Harrison Ford), is speaking at a diplomatic dinner in Moscow. During the speech, Marshall declares that the United States will no longer negotiate with terrorists, nor will they allow terrorists to conduct their operations without reprisals. Marshall’s advisors are upset with Marshall for committing the United States to that doctrine.

A short time later, Marshall, his wife Grace (Wendy Crewson), their 12-year-old daughter Alice (Liesel Matthews), and several of the Cabinet members and advisers prepare to return to the United States on Air Force One. In addition, several members of the Russian media have been invited on the trip to briefly interview the President. Unbeknownst to the Secret Service, the Russian media has been infiltrated by Radek loyalists led by Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman).

Shortly after takeoff, Secret Service Agent Gibbs (Xander Berkeley), who is secretly working with the Radek loyalists, kills several of the other agents. Gibbs unlocks the weapons locker and discharges a smoke grenade. Korshunov and his men rush forward and grab the weapons and put on protective gear. They begin to storm the plane, killing many of the remaining agents and military personnel that they encounter. Marshall is raced to an escape cop in the cargo hold which is ejected from the plane. Korshunov and one of his men, Andrei Kolchak (Elya Baskin), are able to breach the cockpit and take control of the plane. Ramstein Air Force Base launches several F-15’s to follow Air Force One as it changes course and heads to Kazakhstan.

Korshunov begins communicating with Vice President Kathryn Bennett and demands that she facilitate the release of Radek from a Russian prison. Unbeknownst to everyone, Marshall is still on the plane, hiding in the cargo hold instead of using the pod. He uses his military training to ambush and kill one of the terrorists. He then uses a satellite phone that he finds in some luggage to contact Bennett at the White House. He tells Bennett not to give into Korshunov’s demands, no matter what the cost.

Korshunov believes that there is an unaccounted for Secret Service agent in the cargo hold and locks down the lower deck. He secures Grace and Alice near the cockpit, away from the other hostages. He also kills National Security Advisor Jack Doherty (Tom Everett) and Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell (Donna Bullock) when Bennett does not meet his demands in time.

Down below, Marshall uses the phone to figure out how to dump some of the plane’s fuel reserve in an attempt to force a landing. Korshunov is forced to demand a mid-air refueling and sends his men down to repair Marshall’s sabotage. The President uses the opportunity to escape from down below and is able to free all the hostages except his wife and daughter. They use the fax machine to communicate to the White House to tell the Russian to lower the plane to 15,000 feet for refueling purposes. Once they are at the correct altitude, the hostages begin parachuting out of the plane from the parachute ramp. However, Korshunov’s men blow the hatch to get to the hostages, which suddenly decreases the pressure of the plane. Air Force One accidentally ignites the fueling siphon and the fueling plane explodes. Marshall is nearly blown out the back of Air Force One, but the Russians capture him, his Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd (Paul Guilfoyle), Major Norman Caldwell (William H. Macy), and Gibbs.

Korshunov threatens to kill Marshall’s daughter, so the President calls Russian President Petrov (Alan Woolf) to arrange for Radek’s release. The Defense Secretary, Walter Dean (Dean Stockwell), urges Bennett to declare the President incapable under the 25th Amendment so that she can override his request for Radek’s release. However, she refuses. Marshall is able to break free from his binds and kill’s Korshunov’s last remaining accomplice and pilot, Kolchak. Korshunov tries to kill Marshall, but Shepherd jumps in front of the President and takes the bullet.

Korshunov drags Grace down to the parachute ramp. Korshunov throws all the remaining parachutes off the plane, save the one he is wearing. He threatens to kill Grace, who momentarily distracts Korshunov allowing Marshall to wrap his neck in a strap and pull his parachute cord. Korshunov’s neck is broken. Marshall recalls Petrov and rescinds his request for Radek’s release, and the evil dictator is shot trying to flee from the prison.

With Air Force One once again under his control, Marshall turns the plane around and heads back towards Germany. However, six MiG-29 fighters who are loyal to Radek begin attacking Air Force One. The American F-15’s fight back and destroy most of the MiG’s, but Air Force One is severely damaged in the attack. The damage is so extensive that Air Force One has no hope of landing. To make matters worse, the plane is losing fuel again.

The Air Force makes a last ditch effort to save the passengers on Air Force One by calling in some para-jumpers on tether lines to board the President’s plane from a rescue plane. Marshall insists that they take his family and the injured Shepherd before he will leave the plane. When it becomes clear that there is only time for one last transfer, Gibbs kills the para-jumper and Major Caldwell. Marshall and Gibbs fight over the transfer line, and the President manages to grab it and attaches himself to it. Marshall is pulled violently away from Air Force One as it begins to crash into the ocean, killing Gibbs. The rescue plane reels Marshall’s tether line in safely. Once the President is on board, the plane changes call signs to Air Force One and everyone in the White House begins to celebrate. Marshall embraces his family.

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Columbia Pictures released Air Force One on Blu-ray. Wolfgang Petersen directed the film starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, and Glenn Close.

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