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Review Executive Decision (1996): Die Hard on a plane done right!

genre: die hard clones, action, adventure, thriller

After having watched Air Force One this sure was a delight. Not only is this a better Die Hard clone it's also a prime example of what you can accomplish by adding tension and suspense whenever you can.

Compared to Air Force One this might be low on action. But whatever is present is thrilling and spectacular. Sure there is one event which is quite fantastical and ridiculous. However it's presented to you in a way that it could very well be possible. After this one event it's when the real suspense and thrills begin. And I loved every freaking second of it. The entire cast did a good job. Including Steven Seagal. Even his part is quite small. Rumours are his role always was intended to be short and his character always was meant to die. This to dismay of Seagal who claimed his fans wouldn't like that. According to John Leguizamo Seagal never died before in a film and locked himself in a trailer and that he wanted to re-write the scene where he would hold the stealth plane and the Jumbo Jet together as some kind of superman. Now Leguizamo probably was joking about this since Seagal wasn't a fan of his comedy antics and had punched him hard. So could be that some of his statements are exaggerated. Then again Steven Seagal does have a big ego and it doesn't seem so far fetched. I do remember that the first time I had watched this film I wasn't expecting Seagal to die and thought that it worked in the film's favour. Now after so many years I think it's even the best thing that could happen to this film since he surely would be a distraction. One of the main reason Executive Decision is so effective because it is filled with challenges and unexpected events. If you had someone like Seagal who is pretty predictable in his approach it simply would kill all the tension. 

Another thing that helps is that the terrorists are incredibly competent. Leader Nagi Hassan played by David Suchet is a good villain. Suchet gives him some humaity but isn't afraid to show the ruthlessness of his character. Even when he is not on the screen his presence is felt. One could argue though that these terrorists might be a little too competent. However it's one of the elements that maintains a constant sense of tension and suspense. 

I also liked it that even with all the seriousness going on the film is not afraid to poke fun. Like for example having Kurt Russel parade in a tuxedo for the whole duration of the film since apparently there is very little time for him to change his clothes. It points out the sense of urgency but also must be a nod to Die Hard where John McClane also is stuck to walk wearing a specific set of clothes. Another nod is the fact that Kurt's character really doesn't want to be there. But he realizes that if he doesn't do anything the outcome would be devastating. Perhaps this also could be seen as a joke on Seagal. When Grant (Kurt) asks Travis (Seagal) why he is there even when he thinks the intelligence that is provided is bad. He replies who is going to do it otherwise? You? Grant's expression could be interpreted in many ways. I would like to think that his thoughts at the time would be more along the line of that you never quite know what someone would do put in such a situation. That is basically one of the elements that makes Die Hard such a phenomenon. It's not the profession that makes you special but your character. The same applies to Halle Berry's character. She has a big sense of her duty to take care of her passengers but she goes above and beyond that and should be applauded for her bravery. 

Overall Executive Decision is an exhilarating thrill ride packed with good action and spectacle. And definitely is a film that has aged well. A must watch for sure.

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