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Next to the INDIANA JONES and original STAR WARS trilogies, AIR FORCE ONE ($29) was the Harrison Ford movie I was most eager to see released on Blu-ray. Of course, my eagerness to have AIR FORCE ONE on Blu-ray may have something to do with the fact that this film is one of the most thoroughly entertaining action movies of the 1990s. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, AIR FORCE ONE features a perfectly conceived and executed movie scenario that gave Harrison Ford one of the best roles of his later career. In AIR FORCE ONE, Ford portrays United States President James Marshall, who is first seen in Moscow, while giving a speech in which he avows that under his administration, America will undertake a new offensive against terrorism. During the return flight to Washington, Soviet neo-nationalists, posing as Russian journalists, are able to seize control of Air Force One, while Secret Service agents supposedly launch the President out of the escape pod.

Enraged when he learns that the President has escaped, terrorist leader Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman) still intends to use the remaining passengers, including Marshall’s wife and young daughter as bargaining chips to force the release of General Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow), a militant soviet hardliner, who was ousted from the his tyrannical rule of Kazakhstan. As we quickly learn, President Marshall isn’t one to walk away from a fight and is still on board Air Force One. While looking for a way to free the hostages, Marshall soon gets the upper hand over a few hijackers killing them and confiscating their weapons. Sure, the scenario has been completely influenced by DIE HARD, but in Wolfgang Petersen’s capable hands AIR FORCE ONE is a whole lot more than a knockoff of that genre classic. On top of that, both Ford and Oldman are at the top of their games, delivering excellent performances throughout. The highly capable supporting cast of AIR FORCE ONE also features Glenn Close, Wendy Crewson, Liesel Matthews, Paul Guilfoyle, Xander Berkeley, William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell, Tom Everett, Donna Bullock, Michael Ray Miller, Carl Weintraub, Elester Latham, Elya Baskin, Levan Uchaneishvili, David Vadim, Andrew Divoff, Ilia Volok, Chris Howell, Spencer Garrett, Bill Smitrovich and Philip Baker Hall.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made AIR FORCE ONE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. I have to say I was highly impressed and highly delighted by the 1080p presentation of AIR FORCE ONE. It is nice to see more than a trace amount of film grain when one is watching this movie, as it allows the presentation to replicate the theatrical experience, instead of coming across as a digitally scrubbed piece of antiseptic video that has all of its character removed. Image sharpness and detail are generally quite good, although certain shots have a mild softness inherent to the original cinematography or as a result of postproduction effects work. The image is fairly dimensional and produces a strong level of fine detail in close-ups and medium shots. Colors are vivid, but do not push to an inappropriate or over-saturated level. Flesh tones are usually quite attractive. Blacks are accurate, while the whites are crisp and clean. Contrast and shadow detail are also very strong performers that enhance this great presentation. The elements from which AIR FORCE ONE has been transferred appear are pretty clean. As I mentioned earlier, grain is noticeable throughout the course of the presentation and its presence makes for a wonderfully film like viewing experience.

AIR FORCE ONE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. No surprises here, the sound design is pretty aggressive and offers plenty of shoot ‘em up action, with plenty of automatic weapons fire tearing up the less than friendly skies during much of the film’s running time (it’s a good thing the fuselage of Air Force One is bulletproof). As expected, all of the outlying channels are well utilized, with effects coming at the audience from all over the soundstage. Fidelity is excellent, thanks to the lossless encoding, which enhances Jerry Goldsmith’s music score, as well as the sound effects. Additionally, the bass channel is deep and percussive, which augments the gunfire, explosions and the roar of jet engines. A French Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is also present. Subtitles are available in English and French.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a running Audio Commentary with director Wolfgang Petersen and Michael Coleman, plus some Bonus Trailers. AIR FORCE ONE is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

AIR FORCE ONE is an excellent action outing and a personal favorite that makes an impressive Blu-ray debut. The hi-def picture quality is truly excellent, delivering one of the most satisfyingly film-like presentations that I have seen recently. Highly recommended.



Air Force One [Blu-ray] (1997)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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