Sunday, 25 August 2013

Kurt Russell in Executive Decision (1996)

I offer this film for Tuesday's Overlooked Film, Audio & Video meme over at Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

The movies I do, if we make them well, will be fun to watch. They may not be the best movie of the year, and I may not be your favourite actor, but people come up to me all the time and say, “I like the movies you do”.
— From Personal Quotes, IMDb


Kurt Russell has played a law enforcer in several films. He has been a cop, a detective, a sheriff, an intelligence analyst, and an army officer in a film and television career spanning nearly five decades. He acts well and his films are entertaining. In spite of the success of many of his films, he is largely forgotten as a cinematic hero. I don't hear much about him nowadays.

I like Russell as an actor because he has a strong, yet unassuming, presence on screen and I'm tempted to compare him with the likes of Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, and Russell Crowe, each of whom have made more blockbusters than he has, with the exception of Tombstone (1993). 

Kurt Russell doesn't have many cult favourites though he thinks otherwise.

For some reason, I remember the 62-year old actor most for his films of the 1990s which, aside from Tombstone, include Soldier, Escape from L.A., Executive Decision, Stargate, Unlawful Entry, and Backdraft.

I don't recall seeing any of his 1980's films, barring Tequila Sunrise and Tango & Cash, and I have always wanted to see Escape from New York, a futuristic film he shares with veterans Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, and Donald Pleasence.


Last week, I saw Executive Decision again because I love action movies. Only the possibility of a headache and a prolonged bout of inertia prevent me from watching, back to back, films like Air Force One, Commando, Terminator 2, Predator, and Independence Day. I have already seen them more than once.

Directed by Stuart Baird, a film editor of considerable repute, Executive Decision is the story of an Athens-Washington 747 airliner hijacked by Middle Eastern terrorists led by Nagi Hassan, played by the redoubtable David Suchet.

Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell), an intelligence officer in the Pentagon, accompanies a commando unit headed by Lt. Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) who dies as the military crew is transferred to the airliner in a daring mid-air operation. No longer in the reckoning, Seagal’s cameo is understandable.

Rat (John Leguizamo) takes charge of the unit which, apart from Grant, includes a seriously injured military bomb expert, two commandos, and Dennis Cahill (Oliver Platt), who, as a timid computer engineer, livens up the proceedings. In her nominal role, Flight Attendant Jean (Halle Berry) nearly risks her life doing an inside job for the commando unit.

Together, they must find the bomb, defuse it, and eliminate the terrorists before the airliner is blown out of the sky by American fighter planes, to prevent it from entering US air space. The title of the film refers to a presidential order to that effect.

Nagi Hassan has hijacked the plane to seek the release of terrorist mastermind El Sayed Jaffa (Andreas Katsulas). Grant, however, suspects that Hassan has a more sinister and terrifying motive behind the hijacking. He is convinced that Hassan plans to detonate the bomb over the United States and wipe out the eastern seaboard.

Nagi Hassan (David Suchet) to his men: Allah has chosen us for a task far greater than Jaffa's freedom. We are the true soldiers of Islam. Our destiny is to deliver the vengeance of Allah into the belly of the infidel.

Rat and his men are initially sceptical of Grant, of his relative inexperience in matters of the military, and his contribution to the secret operation. Once on board the hijacked airliner, however, they soon realise that they couldn't have known about the bomb or overpowered the terrorists without intelligence inputs from the tuxedo-clad Pentagon officer.

Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell) to the unit: Look, I'm not telling you how to do your job, but if that DZ5 is on board, there's gonna be a bomb attached to it, and you GODDAMN well better find it!

This is what Kurt Russell said about the movie: “When I read 'Executive Decision', it was a real page-turner. I read scripts for the movies more than I do for the characters. I've read lots of characters I'd like to play, but I didn't enjoy the movie itself that much. I liked the fun of 'Executive Decision', you know.”

If Executive Decision was a novel, it would have been a page-turner, right down to the last scene when (the mascara-eyed) Kurt Russell is forced to land the badly-damaged 747 at Dallas International Airport, with some ill-timed humour which takes the pressure off both Kurt Russell and Halle Berry inside the cockpit, as well as the viewers. The film lacks suspense but on the whole it is a good entertainer.

Recommended, both for the underrated Kurt Russell and some decent action.

10 comments:

  1. I'd say I was a pretty big fan of Russel. My favorite movie with him in is "The Thing."

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    1. Charles, it's hard not to like Russell and many of his films. I have never seen THE THING although I know what it is about. He seems to be a favourite with John Carpenter.

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  2. My husband and I are big fans of Kurt Russell also. We have watched this movie several times, and find it a lot of fun. One of our favorite Kurt Russell movies is "Big Trouble in Little China."

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    1. Tracy, I can't say I'm a fan of Kurt Russell but I like his films particularly TOMBSTONE and EXECUTIVE DECISION. I think Russell has correctly judged what people think of him and his movies as evident from his quote reproduced at the beginning. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is another John Carpenter film that I haven't seen. He appears to have worked with several leading directors including Ron Howard and Roland Emmerich.

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  3. Great post Prashant - I actually saw this one at the cinema and loved the big twist involving Seagal's character. Russell is a terrific actor (never better than as Wyatt Earp in TOMBSTONE in my view, though he comes close in TEQUILA SUNRISE)

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    1. Sergio, thank you very much. I was, in fact, surprised to see Seagal right at the beginning since he'd have to share the credits equally with a big star like Russell and the fact that he usually does "standalone" movies. His vanishing act within the first half-hour was evidence that this was going to be a Kurt Russell film all the way. I agree he is a "terrific" actor and nowhere more so than in 'TOMBSTONE.

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  4. I remember this one too. Thanks for the jolt. I remember him as a kid too.

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    1. You're welcome, Patti. I like action movies and so it wasn't difficult to write about this one than some of his other films. I don't remember Russell as a child actor but, I believe, he started his film career at a very young age.

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  5. Great cast. John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Halle Berry. My favorite Russell film is ESCAPE FROM NY, probably because his character was such a tongue in cheek dismissal of all the sunny, wholesome roles he'd played in the past, all the way back to Disney.

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    1. Ron, I agree. John Leguizamo and Oliver Platt are quite the likeable characters. Leguizamo is pretty good even in bit roles, like the one in COLLATERAL DAMAGE, although I'll best remember him as "Sid" in ICE AGE. He has a major role in this film, though. Your view of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK makes me want to see the film even more now.

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