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Film: Air Force One
And he wants you off his plane.

One of the most American movies ever made.

Air Force One is a pre-9/11 film in which Harrison Ford, as James Marshall, the President of the United States, personally thwarts a hijacking of Air Force One. The film also includes Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close), First Lady Grace Marshall (Wendy Crewson) and First Daughter Alice Marshall (Liesel Matthews). Oh, and Gary Oldman as the Russian villain.

Get off my tropes:

  • Alliterative Name: Deputy Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Petrov and his colleagues after Radek dies.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    "When you talk to the President, you might remind him that I am holding his wife, his daughter, his chief of staff, his national security adviser, his classified papers - and his baseball glove!"
    • In response to the last one, a member of the cabinet grumbles, "Dammit! Nobody does this to the United States! The president will get his glove back and play catch with this guy's balls!"
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Ironically subverted by the terrorists, not realizing that it's the President kicking ass, believing that it's a Secret Service agent who's holding out. Justified since Marshall was a former officer in the United States Air Force.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Glenn Close as the Vice President.
    • Harrison Ford as the President. Kinda goes without saying.
  • Beard of Evil: Korshunov, like many other villains portrayed by Gary Oldman.
    • General Radek has one too.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Alice complained that James didn't take her to see the refugee camp, expressing her desire to see some real gritty shit up close...
  • Big Bad/The Dragon/The Heavy: Ivan is either one of these. Which one depends mostly on how subordinate he is to Radek- that is, whether he hijacks the plane under Radek's orders, or masterminded the scheme himself. It seems to be the latter, though, which means he is indeed the Big Bad, at least in the context of the story.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The escorting F-15 fighters, which returned after being called off earlier just in time to save Air Force One from being shot down by MiG-29s.
      "Haha! Good guys are here!"
    • Especially Halo Two, who "took a bullet" for the President.
  • Bigger Bad: General Radek. A borderline case since he not only appears in a few scenes, he actually is killed off, but he fills enough of the criteria.
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you speak Russian (or are one), you are guaranteed to have a few snickers from the rather trippy Russian spoken in the movie. Not to mention the colorful Russian expletives...
  • Bond One-Liner: A case of one being delivered by the villain. After executing National Security Adviser Doherty Korshunov tells the Vice President;
    Korshunov: Your national security advisor has just been executed. He's a very good negotiator. He bought you another half-hour.
  • California Doubling: The city of Cleveland, Ohio doubles for Kazakhstan; Radek's palace was shot in the Severance Hall and the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. Also, the prison where Radek was incarcerated was actually the Ohio State Reformatory.
  • Cassandra Truth: President Marshall calls the White House on a cell phone and says he's the President of the United States with predictable results. Fortunately for him, one of those predictable results is the security procedure that everyone who calls the White House has a phone trace run on them - which leads to considerable surprise when they realize that it actually is the President calling.
  • The Cavalry: Obviously, President Harrison Ford is the Cavalry for much of the movie, not to mention the half-dozen USAF F-15s that come burning in, splashing two MiGs immediately. The second gets just enough time for the pilot to have an Oh, Crap moment.
    Halo Lead:Four more bandits, heading zero-nine-zero, Engage!
  • Chairman of the Brawl: During his fight with Krasin, Marshall hits him with a stool.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Marshall's ability to speak Russian. It's also mentioned at one point in the movie that he fought in The Vietnam War as a pilot.
  • Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing: President Marshall tries to stall Korshunov as he cuts his hands free using a shard from a broken drinking glass.
  • Disposable Pilot: The pilots are executed by the terrorists early on for refusing to cooperate.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: The bad guys are dead, the plane has been secured, and the evil General has been killed before he could return to power. A flight of MiGs has launched from one of the bases loyal to the bad guys, and proceeds to intercept and attack Air Force One.
    Halo Lead:Not so fast, you son of a bitch!
  • Dragon Ascendant: From a story standpoint Ivan Korshunov is this. His boss, General Radek, being in prison elevates Korshunov functionally to the level of an "acting main villain."
  • Dragon Their Feet: At the end of the film, the terrorists have been dispatched and a mid-air zipline transfer is about to take the remaining passengers to the rescue plane, Liberty 2-4. However, the traitor Agent Gibbs pulls a gun and demands that he be rescued over Major Caldwell and President Marshall.
  • Dramatic Irony: Audiences can find out early on who The Mole is, if they pay attention. It takes The Hero and his men until the final 10 minutes to figure it out, and people die during The Reveal.
  • Eagleland: Type 1 flavor. The US President is adored in Moscow, appoints himself a one-man crusader against terrorism, and kicks ass on his own plane. In other countries this overbearing Americana is considered a bizarre point in the film's favor - part of the attraction, as it were. U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • A Father to His Men: Ivan Korshunov takes it very personally when Marshall kills Krasin. Arguably General Radek is this, too.
    Korshunov: [holding the dead Krasin's hand] This man fought side by side with me in Afghanistan. Find out who did this or you lie down beside him.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The flick reflects the brief Yeltsin-era rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. Though to some extent, the villains are straightforward Russian bad guys, with a quick coat of post-Soviet updating.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • When Lloyd Shepard dives in front of the President to take the bullet (he got better).
    • Towards the end, when a MiG tries to shoot down Air Force One, one of the fighter planes flies into its path (even managing to look like someone Taking the Bullet).
    • Discussed when Marshall, Major Caldwell and Agent Gibbs argue over who will be rescued (from the plane as its crashing) luckily Gibbs happens to be The Mole, kills Caldwell, who wanted the President to leave them, and suffers his Karmic Death.
    • Done, perhaps inadvertently, by another agent. As the melee begins and Alice opens the door of the suite to find out what's going on, one of the guards ends up in front of her, likely saving her and her mother's life.
    • Attempted by the pilots, who firmly decide to land the plane despite having guns to their heads and get shot for their trouble when they get the plane on the ground. Unfortunately, the terrorists had their own pilot.
  • High Concept: It's Die Hard on Air Force One and President Harrison Ford is taking back his plane. That's the entire movie in one short sentence.
  • I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: Even the poster says "Harrison Ford is the President of the United States." The character's name is James Marshall, but you won't remember that.
  • I Have Your Wife: And your daughter. And your chief of staff. And your national security adviser. And your classified papers. And your baseball glove!
  • I Lied: "Forgive me, I lied." is Korshunov's response when First Lady Marshall pointed out he promised to let them go if the President cooperated.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Radek's Kazakh troops cannot hit all except one of the commandos in the intro, let alone only two of the six Russian prison guards when Radek was released and killed.
  • Just Plane Wrong: As Air Force One swerves about Ramstein AB and goes to take-off again the terrorists do nothing about the flaps (set at 30 degrees for landing). The increased drag caused by the flaps at this setting wouldn't allow the aircraft to take off at all, let alone take off in such a short distance.
  • Large Ham: As usual, Gary Oldman is this.
  • Meaningful Rename: When Liberty 2-4 retrieved President Marshall safely on board, they changed their call sign to Air Force One.
  • Misguided Missile: One of Halo Flight's pilots throws his plane in the path of a missile aimed at Air Force One.
  • The Mole: Agent Gibbs
  • Monochrome Casting: "Aren't there any Asian people in Central Asia?" Kurshonov's post-Soviet Kazakhstan does feature a Russian minority, but making all the appearing Kazakh characters Slavic is factually comparable to making all New Yorkers white people.
  • Moral Myopia: Korushonov seems to view President Marshall as something of an oppressive dictator. Never mind the fact that the general he's trying to get released from prison is an actual dictator.
  • Motive Decay: Meta-example. Gary Oldman has said that Ivan Korushonov was originally written as much more three-dimensional and sympathetic when he signed up for the movie; Executive Meddling degraded him into a more typical action movie villain.
  • Motive Rant: Done by Korshunov when Vice President Bennett asks him what the terrorists want.
    Vice-President Kathryn Bennett: What are your intentions?
    Ivan Korshunov: What arrogance to think you could ever understand my intentions.
    Bennett: I want to understand what it is that you want.
    Korshunov: What do I want...When Mother Russia becomes one great nation again, when the capitalists are dragged from the Kremlin and shot in the street, when our enemies run and hide in fear at the mention of our name, and when America begs our forgiveness...on that great day of deliverance, you will know what I want.
    • Also subverted by Korshunov, actually taking the time to explain himself, not because he snaps, but because he seems to want to justify his patriotic motives to the President's daughter (who happened to just witness the execution of the National Security Advisor). Gary Oldman plays this to the hilt, and at least for that one scene Korshunov becomes somewhat sympathetic.
    Korshunov: That's the first time you ever seen a man killed, huh? You think I'm a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody's son? Somebody's father? I am somebody's son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?
    Alice: Why did you kill him?
    Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I know...how deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself...for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private morality...it dissolves in this moment...for this love.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Working fax on board, someone who knows how to use it, and Jerry Goldsmith scoring to boot!
  • Multitasked Conversation: President Marshall finally gets through to the White House phone line, but is cornered by one of the terrorists. He hides the phone in his pocket, and in what appears to be idle conversation with the terrorist, instructs the Vice-President to order that Air Force One be fired upon, allowing him to take his captor by surprise.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Korshunov. Korshun is Russian for kite, as in "bird of prey".
  • Neck Snap:
    • Accomplished rather realistically by the President, who is understandably unsettled after doing it, considering it is probably the first time he has killed with his bare hands.
    • Also the fate of Korshunov, courtesy of his parachute strap getting caught on his neck when Marshall kicks him off the plane.
  • New Era Speech: Marshall's speech in Moscow when his character is introduced when he explains America's new hardline stance on terrorism.
    Marshall: Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It's your turn to be afraid.
  • The New Russia: Korshunov doesn't like it very much.
    Korshunov: (speaking to The President) This is all your doing. This infection you call "freedom"...without meaning, without purpose. You have given my country to gangsters and prostitutes. You have taken everything from us. There is nothing left.
  • Not So Different: Korshunov makes this case to the president's daughter at the end of his subverted Motive Rant:
    Korshunov: You know your father has also killed, is he a bad man?
    Alice: That's not true.
    Korshunov: Why? Because he does it in a tuxedo with a telephone call and a smart bomb?
    • Alice hits back with a non-violent Shut Up, Hannibal!: "You ARE a monster...and my father is a great man."
    • Korshunov also responds to First Lady Marshall arguing with him about war, saying he murdered an unarmed woman, by saying
    Korshunov: You, who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis just to save a nickel on a gallon of gas, are going to lecture me on THE RULES OF WAR?! DON'T!
  • Novelization: By Max Allan Collins. An audiobook was released read by Edward Herrmann,
  • Offstage Villainy: General Radek's heinous crimes are never revealed to the audience.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; both Radek and Korshunov have the first name Ivan.
  • Orbital Shot: Used when the White House staff celebrates after the plane has been retaken.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: President Marshall finds a satellite phone and attempts to get through to the Vice President, but is thwarted by the White House switchboard operator who refuses to believe the caller is actually who he says he is, until they get a trace on his phone and put him through...just as he is discovered by one of the hijackers.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: James Marshall is the President Action type.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't threaten President Marshall's staff. His loved ones. Or his baseball glove!
  • Pet the Dog: Korshunov gets a moment during his explanation to Alice about his actions.
    Korshunov: That's the first time you ever seen a man killed, huh? You think I'm a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody's son? Somebody's father? I am somebody's son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?
    Alice: Why did you kill him?
    Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I know...how deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself...for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private morality...it dissolves in this moment...for this love.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: After killing lead terrorist Ivan Korshunov, retaking the plane, and fending off MiGs in a dogfight, Agent Gibbs tries one final attempt to kill the protagonists during the movie's ending escape sequence.
  • Precision F-Strike: Done in brilliant Gary Oldman fashion when Korshunov holds Marshall at gunpoint.
    Marshall: [after Korshunov demands him to release Radek] I'll do anything to save my family. Don't ask something I can't give!
    Korshunov: The most powerful man on the earth. Suddenly, there are things you can't do. This is very curious. Stop with your fucking lies!
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • At the climax of the battle with the Big Bad:
    The President: "Get off my plane."
    Halo Lead: "Not so fast, you son of a bitch."
  • The President's Daughter: Alice Marshall, who is taken hostage with her mother at the start of the film.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: President James Marshall reportedly earned the Medal of Honor flying combat rescue missions in The Vietnam War.
  • Redshirt Army:
    • The Secret Service detail are quickly wiped out when the terrorists launch a sudden attack (under the cover of a smoke grenade and fire) by grabbing the plane's weapons and body armor. However, the Secret Service do succeed in holding back the terrorists long enough to get the President to the escape pod in the belly of the plane, thus succeeding at their primary objective.
    • Radek's Kazakh guards at the beginning of the film, as most are easily gunned down by the special forces extraction squad, and only one manages to actually score a hit on the commandos.
  • The Reveal: There's a mole on board.
  • Renegade Russian: The Russian terrorists are opposed to the Russian government and, apparently, want to re-create the USSR.
  • Rule of Cool: The features on the plane in the film (the escape pod and the parachute ramp), are not on the real planes that transport the US President but can be explained by this.
  • Rule of Drama: The only reason why Gibbs, who until then was a Karma Houdini, could decide to pull a gun on the president at the very last moment.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Major Caldwell, played by William H. Macy.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Give yourself up and provide the terrorists with the bargaining chip they need or let your Deputy Press Secretary, begging for her life, be killed?
    • Let the US President, the First Family and several other VIP's die or release the genocidal general?
    • Let your wife and daughter die or order the release of said general?
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Korshunov delivers one to the First Lady after he killed the Press Secretary
    First Lady: This isn't war.YOU JUST MURDERED AN UNARMED WOMAN!
    Korshunov: You, who murdered a hundred thousand Iraqis just to save a nickel on a gallon of gas, are going to lecture me on THE RULES OF WAR?! DON'T!
  • Slipped the Ropes: Marshall does this with the aid of a shard of glass.
  • Smug Snake: Korshunov.
    "Whatever happens, you lose, and I win!"
  • Taking the Bullet: One of the F-15's protecting Air Force One intercepts a missile headed for the titular plane, sacrificing himself and saving everyone on it. In a subversion the shrapnel still damages the tail, making the plane unable to continue flying; but this is still less damage than the missile itself would have caused.
    • Played straight with Lloyd Shephard, Marshall's Chief of Staff.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: The motivations for Special Agent Gibbs' betrayal of the President and in doing so his nation to Korshunov is never addressed, nor his prior history in aiding the terrorists in boarding the plane.
  • That's an Order: Said by Vice President Bennett after President Marshall has ordered the escorting jets to fire on Air Force One.
    White House General: Is he saying what I think he's saying?
    Vice-President Bennett: If we're going to act, we have to act now.
    Defense Secretary Dean: It's too risky.
    Bennett: The president is up there with a gun to his head!
    General Northwood: He's asking us to do that to Air Force One?
    Bennett: He's not asking. Your commander-in-chief has issued a direct order. Do it!
  • Throwing Out The Script: At the beginning of the movie, Marshall ditches his previously written self congratulatory speech about the successful capture of a Kazakh dictator by Russian and American special forces in favor of a frank confession on how his capture was too little too late since said dictator's regime had killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and the United States did nothing besides token trade sanctions until their own national security was threatened. He then vows that the United States will launch a new policy against terrorism unbounded by self interest.
  • Twenty Fifth Amendment: Fairly early in the movie, when it's discovered that the President is still on Air Force One, the Cabinet quickly drafts a letter stating the intent to invoke this, as the President is compromised. The Vice President, however, refuses to sign it, considering it an affront to the situation on the plane. At the end of the film, she tears it up.
    • However, the document in the folder to invoke the 25th amendment is actually just the text of the 25th amendment. Section 1 is listed accurately; however, Section 2 of the document is actually Section 4 of the amendment. Also, if this was an actual document invoking the 25th amendment, it would need to be signed by a majority of the cabinet.
  • Vice President Who: National Security Advisor Jack Doherty discusses this trope while being held hostage, "The Vice President in this case is like the Queen of England. You can't even buy airline tickets without talking to someone like me."
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Korshunov is shown lamenting the death of one his henchmen, saying that they served together in Afghanistan
  • Wire Dilemma: Naturally, there's No Time To Think, and so President Marshall cuts all the wires except for the Red, White, and Blue.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle:
    • Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, it seems the President has safely ejected from Air Force One, and Air Force One itself is about to land safely at the Rammstein AB in Germany, this can't be it, right?
    • Also happens with General Radek as he's leaving prison; as he makes grandiose victory poses to his fellow prisoners, the call comes in that the terrorists who "negotiated" for his release were neutralized and the prison snipers shoot him dead in full view of everyone present.
  • You Monster!: Alice says this to Korshunov.
    Alice Marshall: You are a monster. And my father is a great man. You're nothing like my father.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: From the First Lady to Korshunov, who promised to release his hostages if the President cooperated.


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