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Film: Executive Decision

I hope there's a good movie on this flight.
Rat

Executive Decision is a 1996 action film, directed by Stuart Baird (his directorial debut) and starring Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, David Suchet, John Leguizamo, and Steven Seagal.

Terrorists have hijacked a Boeing 747 en route from Athens to Washington, D.C., demanding in exchange for the hostages the release of terrorist El Sayed Jaffa, who had been recently captured and taken into United States custody. It is discovered that the terrorists are actually planning an attack on Washington, D.C., placing a bomb on the airplane that will release a large amount of nerve gas on detonation. A plan is devised to place a small team of United States Army Special Forces into the plane mid-flight to retake control and disable the bomb. If they are not successful, it may become necessary to shoot down the aircraft before it reaches United States airspace, sacrificing approximately 400 innocent passengers to save the lives of hundreds of thousands on the ground. That call is an "executive decision", meaning that it must be made by the President of the United States.

Comparisons with Air Force One are inevitable, but although that film is better known, this one actually predates it by one year (both were also scored by veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith). Notable for being the originator of Oceanic Airlines.


This film provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Travis.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Played With: The heroes take turns crawling around in the crawlspace above the passenger cabin so they can spy on the bad guys. They spend most of the rest of the movie hiding in the cargo bay.
  • Badass Bookworm: Grant.
  • Boarding Pod: The F-117X Remora aircraft. Basically an F-117 with a boarding sleeve on the back and room in the back for passengers.
    • Interesting to note this was inspired by an early F-117 test where the aircraft's stealth was tested by seeing if it could be detected by a 747's collision avoidance radar.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The straw.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Sky Marshal, who hides his badge and gun when the hijackers first make their move, being Genre Savvy enough to know how well it would work if he tried to stop them all on the spot.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The flying lessons.
  • Cool Plane: The Remora.
  • Covers Always Lie / Never Trust a Trailer: Although killed off quicky, Seagel's character was heavily featured in the film's marketing, as he was the most bankable star.
    • This was only in the international release. The American release had Kurt Russell solely billed above the title (he had some recent hits at the time as well, such as Stargate and Unlawful Entry).
  • Crash Course Landing: Except the heroes are attempting to use the flight manual rather than having someone talk them in over the radio.
    • Such a manual being in the cockpit of a commercial jet is, of course, Truth in Television. The heroes knowing where it is and how to use it is justified by them being a student pilot and a (non-pilot) member of the flight crew.
  • Deadly Gas: The whole reason why they board the plane midair in the first place.
  • Dead Star Walking: Travis.
  • Destroy the Evidence: One of the flight attendants throws away the passenger manifest, which would have otherwise revealed the presence of the Sky Marshal on the plane to the terrorists.
    • The terrorists quickly realize that the manifest is gone, but they think that it was destroyed to cover up the fact that there was a Senator on board.
  • Die Hard on an X: Die Hard on a plane.
  • Even Evil Has Standards / Not What I Signed On For: Even though Jaffa gets released like they wanted, Hassan still wants to go on with his original plan, and when a fellow terrorist objects, Hassan kills him.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: In this case, US Navy fighter pilots do.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Travis closing the external 747 hatch right before the Remora conduit integrity fails.
  • Homage: The scene involving the F-14 interception was the last film appearance of Squadron VF-84, ''The Jolly Rogers'', before being decommissioned.
  • Immune to Bullets: About half the cast. The Sky Marshall takes several rounds and survives long enough to be taken to hospital. The Big Bad gets More Dakka'ed to near death, yet is able to get up and take out the pilots. Rat gets shot in the back with little more effect than being knocked unconscious for around thirty seconds, though it's likely he had a bulletproof vest on.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Cahill said this almost word-for-word at the end. Kinda hard to blame him.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Just relax and fly the airplane."
  • Mundane Solution: The bomb is "defused" not with all the high-tech gear the soldiers brought on board, but rather by the simple expedient of thrusting a plastic swizzle-stick between two electrical contacts, thus preventing the detonator from firing.
  • Non-Action Guy: Dr. Grant, Dennis Cahill even more so.
  • Not Quite Dead: Captain Rat, who kills Hassan in the end.
  • Oceanic Airlines: The maiden flight of this very exciting airline in any work of fiction. The aerial footage was reused in many other works as a cost-saving measure, leading to Oceanic becoming a sort of industry in-joke along the lines of the Wilhelm Scream.
  • Operation Game of Doom: The bomb onboard the plane had a core that would explode if anyone touched the laser security grid around it.
  • Post Modernism: For most of us a movie begins when we see the trailer or the poster; Steven Seagal's character, Travis, features prominently in these places. So we figure he's the guy who will save the day and are doubly shocked when he dies. Utterly brilliant.
  • Retirony: The flight attendant gushing about her recent wedding is the first to die when the hijackers take over the plane.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Dr. Grant
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Col. Travis, played by Steven Seagal.
  • Spanner in the Works: Dennis Cahill.
  • Suicide Attack: Hassan's original intention.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Over the course of the movie, Grant goes from a nerdy (but still kinda suave) nobody to almost fearlessly taking on the terrorists with the SEALs as if he was one of them; this was best shown when he fought the sleeper.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There are two other members of the assault team that go down with the Remora with Travis, but they are not mentioned or even acknowledged.

EvolutionCreator/Dream Works AnimationFreddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
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alternative title(s): Executive Decision
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