A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that violence in the film includes close-range shootings of innocent hostages, and death threats to women and an adolescent girl. There is also scattered profanity, but in general the R-rating is pretty surprising; seems the MPAA has slapped PG-13s on nastier films than this.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Shortly after the fall of Soviet communism, a U.S. commando team, with Kremlin cooperation, captures an upstart warlord general from his palace in Kazakhstan (this movie was made long before Borat turned poor Kazakhstan into a big joke). In appreciation, U.S. President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) flies with his wife and daughter to Moscow to thank the new Russian government. On the return flight aboard Air Force One, however, ruthless communist gunmen loyal to the deposed general violently hijack the plane, intending to use the First Family to bargain for their leader's release. At first both the marauders and the panicking U.S. authorities believe Marshall ejected in an escape pod -- but the Chief Executive, a Vietnam War hero, has secretly stayed behind on the imperiled plane, where he risks his life fighting back against the terrorists from within.
Is it any good?
This film's thrill-machine goes on at a jet-fueled pace that doesn't let up. Not even a politician would argue lumping AIR FORCE ONE in with the many, many imitators of Die Hard -- "It's Die Hard on a plane with the president!" is probably how the script pitch went -- but it's a well-made cinematic roller-coaster, even when stunts and dangers get over-the-top absurd.
What keeps the picture from crashing are good actors taking this popcorn stuff with utmost seriousness, reminding the viewer it's not just any CIA-Shaolin Temple muscleman-kickboxer-Green Beret-Navy SEAL up there, it's the president. Kudos to Harrison Ford, as not many actors could manage to make James Marshall believable as, all at once, an action hero, caring dad, virile husband, and a righteous and thoughtful Commander-in-Chief -- imagine Rambo) mixed with Josiah Bartlett . But Ford pulls it off. Largely thanks to him, this mayhem actually restores some of old-style Hollywood reverence and awe for the Oval Office, a quality so many films tore down since the 1960s and the Watergate scandal.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the actions undertaken by President Marshall. Should a U.S. president perform lone-wolf heroics like that? You can educate kids about the post-Cold War time period. Going further back, cite presidents who were war heroes and whether that translated into good leadership or not (compare George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant, for example). What did kids think of all the Cabinet bickering about authority and command protocol while President Marshall was in jeopardy?
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