20161115: Thriller Review--Executive Decision

Name: Executive Decision (1996)
IMDb: link to Executive Decision page

Genres: Thriller   Country of origin: USA.

Kurt Russell as Dr David Grant, Steven Seagal as Lt Colonel Austin Travis, Halle Berry as Jean, John Leguizamo as Captain Rat,  Oliver Platt as Dennis Cahill, Joe Morton as Sgt 'Cappy' Metheny, BD Wong as Sgt Louie, Whip Hubley as Sgt Baker, Len Cariou as Sec Defense Charles White, JT Walsh as Senator Mavros, Marla Maples as Nancy, Richard Riehle as Air Marshall George Edwards.

David Suchet as Nagi Hassan, Andreas Katsulas as El Sayed Jaffa, Robert Apisa as Jean-Paul Demou.

Directed by: Stuart Baird.  Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas (screenplay).
Cahill and wounded Cappy with bomb
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Col Travis and his team lead a mission to recover a large quantity of DZ-5, a neural poison.  The mission fails.  Travis is nonplussed plus.

David Grant takes the flying lesson before his first solo flight.  He's hesitant, but his instructor talks him through it.

El Jaffa is kidnapped by agents friendly to the US.  Nagi Hassan and Jean Paul Menou execute a plot to force the West to release Jaffa.  With a half dozen or so other terrorists, they skyjack a 747 with Senator Mavros aboard.

Delineation of conflicts:
The terrorists announce their demands.  Intelligence analyst Dr Grant gets the call while at a black tie affair.  Soon he's in a situation room led by the Secretary of Defense.

The terrorists want Jaffa released.  SecDef and his experts devise a plan to use a stealth plane to insert commandos on the skyjacked 747.  Col Travis and his team volunteer as the commandos.  Dennis Cahill readies the stealth plane and the unique boarding tube.  Dr Grant gets dragooned into going with the commandos to identify Hassan.

Just to make things more interesting, the DZ-5 that Col Travis' team did not extricate is on the airliner attached to a sophisticated bomb.

Just when the plan looks like it will succeed with high likelihood, some unexpected harsh conditions break the boarding tube.  Col Travis and the stealth plane are lost.  With the smaller team, with Col Travis lost, with bomb expert Cappy severely injured, Captain Rat takes tactical command, and Dr. Grant drives the effort to learn what they need to learn to find the leader and accomplish the mission.

Flight attendant Jean is assigned by Nagi to keep the passengers as calm as possible.  The commandos made contact with her to get more information.  She manages to help the commandos and to keep the identity of the air marshall secret.

Senator Mavros thinks he can negotiate with the terrorists.  Will that work out?  The president springs El Jaffa, who asks Nagi to call off blowing up the nerve gas.  Does that go as planned?  Well, no.  The bomb with the nerve gas payload is more complicated than first expected.  Can Cappy get the bomb defused using Cahill's hands?

Resolution: Just about everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.  The decimated commando team, however, has more skill and luck than anyone might hope for.

One line summary: Well-crafted skyjacking thriller.


Cinematography: 9/10 Nicely shot.

Sound: 8/10 The dialog was clear, and the incidental sound was fine.  Music was not a big plus.

Acting: 10/10 I liked the big cast that had quite a number of good performances.  David Suchet was chilling as the lead villain.  Steven Seagal was just right for his unexpectedly short role.  Kurt Russell gave one of his best performances as a man who was hesitant and scared, but also intelligent, expert, and inventive.

John Leguizamo and BD Wong were excellent as the commandos determined to finish the mission despite the adversity.

Oliver Platt was great as a man delivering beyond his usual skill set and level of courage.  Len Cariou, JT Walsh, Halle Berry, and Joe Morton were solid in smaller roles.

Screenplay: 8/10 The film was 133 minutes in runtime, but did not drag.  The plot moved right along, and had no moments where writing stupidity broke through suspension of disbelief.

Final Rating: 9/10