Thursday, June 22, 2023


Although films can be art, most movies are

primarily entertainment which exploit our emotions.

I saw a lot of “art” and “experimental” films during

my school years, but as I grew up into the so-called

real world, I lost interest in them as well as the

“Hollywood” variety which no linger seemed that

entertaining, much less very credible.

I also stopped watching television. The incessant

advertising became unbearable.

The internet, of course, came along and provided

an enormous choice for news, opinion, and the arts

and entertainment that might be more relevant —

and usually, but not always, minus the din of 

intrusive commercial messaging.

I have now had the opportunity to rediscover some

of the few movies that, while not perfect, made a

difference to me when premiered, and still seem to

have enduring qualities.

Of course, favorite films (as distinct from “best” 

films) are always chosen personally and

subjectively, and my list probably is not the same

as anyone else’s, but I think the 1997 Hollywood film 

Air Force One with Harrison Ford is, under present

circumstance, worth a discussion.

A dramatic political thriller involving the hijacking

of the president’s plane employed some outstanding

acting; extraordinary, if somewhat exaggerated, plane

technology; some occasionally incredible film action 

scenes; and a superb Jerry Goldsmith film score 

highlighted by a very uplifting theme which 

resounds through the film like a leitmotif. The film’s 

hero, the president, is idealized at a time when the 

presidency had taken a series of negative directions — 

with the Kennedy assassination, Nixon resignation, and 

Clinton impeachment. Harrison Ford plays an Air Force

combat pilot turned politician whose political views 

and party are unknown, and are ignored by the film’s 

preoccupation with the single event of the presidential

plane being hijacked by a rogue communist general’s 

supporters who wish to free him from a post-Soviet 

Russian prison where he is being held.

At the Hollywood level, it’s a melodramatic yet rather

ingenious script touching on a lot of American sensitive

emotions, while providing a fast-paced thriller screen

play. I will leave detailed judgments of this aspect of 

the movie to more film-knowledgeable critics.        

At the level of the film’s more enduring significance,

however, I think this film, a quarter of a century old,

merits some contemporary consideration for what it

assumes — juxtaposed to the assumptions of today.

The title and main location of the film, Air Force One,

displays the underlying themes and fundamental

assumption of the movie. The plane itself is

ultimately destroyed, but it continuity is defined by

its purpose as being the vehicle which transports a

U.S. president. Individual planes and presidents

come and go, but the institutions remain, so that 

when, at the film’s end, the president is rescued

aboard a minor military plane, it becomes “Air

Force One.” 

That continuity was the reassuring inspiration of

the movie in 1997 when the republic’s two centuries

of growth and survival seemed unquestionable and

limitless. In 2023, after 9/11, Hillary Clinton, Donald

Trump, and Joe Biden, those certainties have been

shaken, and not just by political personalities, and

the polarization of voters to  one side or another, but

also by a stalemated war in Ukraine, a chronic

confrontation in the Middle East, and by the

suddenly emergent direct threat from China — all

of which has been complicated by the almost-sudden

influence of exponentially changing technologies of

computers and the internet, artificial intelligence,

smart phones and more.

For those who saw the film when it was first released

25 years ago, or those who have not yet seen it, it 

might be worth seeing it now (via various venues

including DVD or internet streaming, including free

with ads) to see how the mood and values of the

nation have changed. It’s not Citizen Kaine or

Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, but I think it’s

worth seeing.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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