March 18, 1996 -- ``Executive Decision'' is the latest action thriller to come out of Hollywood. Although the formula may be old, it is expertly handled.
The film stars Kurt Russell as David Grant, a think tank intelligence expert on terrorists. Grant is assigned to help disarm terrorists who have hijacked an airliner on its way to Washington, D.C.
Grant suspects the airliner is carrying a bomb and nerve gas to be used against the capital. Grant goes along with a commando unit on a specially-equipped Stealth Fighter to sneak aboard the airliner while it is in flight.
Now, a Stealth Fighter doesn't have room for an entire commando squad. The business about linking up and boarding an airliner in flight without anyone on board knowing about it is absurd.
One of the reasons the movie works anyway is that the real drama takes place after the commandos board the plane. Not all of the equipment or all of the commandos get on the plane. The plan is thrown out the window and everyone has to improvise. Grant and Cahill (Oliver Platt from ``Flatliners'') are pressed into service.
They have to disarm the bomb, take out the terrorists and find a hidden terrorist bomb trigger-man who is pretending to be just another passenger. They have to do all this before the plane has to be shot down to save Washington. There are plenty of cliffhangers.
For you Steven Seagal fans, he's just a bit character in this film. He appears only briefly. If you are planning on seeing this film to see Seagal, don't bother. Kurt Russell and Halle Berry, a brave flight attendant, are the real stars of the film.
The film isn't believable in its details (like how the terrorists were able to cook up this elaborate plot and put it into action in just a few hours). It also telegraphs its punches. For instance, it begins with a scene of Kurt Russell taking a flying lesson. Think about it.
Yet, the film works because it keeps all these crazy details in the air at once like a juggling act. Director Stuart Baird does a good job of maintaining suspense. Writers Jim and Joan Thomas also effectively make use of ``Mission Impossible'' plot elements. I looked around. There were other people like me, leaning forward, on the edge of their seats during this film.
It rates a B.
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