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Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) heads an elite, top-secret military anti-terrorist unit. When they are first introduced, in the prologue to Executive Decision, they are on a mission to retrieve a dangerous biological weapon called DZ-5. But one of his men is killed in the mission, and the DZ-5 isn't where it is supposed to be. Which really ticks Seagal off at the man whose information sent him on the wild goose chase. . .
. . . Which would be Kurt Russell, who plays David Grant, Ph.D., the head of a think tank located outside of Washington DC.
Like the airplane on which it is set, ED begins smoothly and soon runs into some turbulence. There is a jagged sequence intended to introduce you to the terrorist leader whose capture "inspires" the hijacking of Flight 343. It's rocky. It comes out of nowhere and is a bit confusing, but in the long run it matters not. A plane is hijacked. A ransom of money and freedom for the terrorist leader is demanded. ED moves into a slow but steady build towards its end.
As the think tank specialist on Mideast terrorists, Grant is interrupted while hitting on a cute blonde at a formal party and called into the military briefing. He thinks the DZ-5 is on the plane, and that the intent is to destroy Washington.
Yeah, it's a stretch. Go with it.
Austin points out that Grant has been wrong before. The brass won't take the chance, and go with the egghead's guess. The only option is to board the plane in mid-air (thanks to relatively untested technology) and take it from within. And since his name is not above the title, Seagal makes a spectacular exit, and Russell winds up running the show. Still in his formal wear.
Ninety percent of the above you could have figured out from the trailer or TV commercial. The rest I won't tell you.
ED is a well-built THRILLER. It's not an action movie in the Willis/Arnold mold. It deliberately builds suspense, utilizing cool hi-tech spy tools, and overcoming more than a handful of obstacles built into the well-written script by Jim and John Thomas.
Director Stuart Baird makes his first unit debut (he's previously been editor and second unit director on the Lethal Weapon series and Die Hard 2) and methodically builds each part of the story, like a jigsaw puzzle. Baird and the Thomases have built in enough character moments (the hostage politician seeking to turn hero by negotiating a release, for example) to keep things fairly interesting. Most of the time.
The first hour moves quickly, then settles down for a bit and, though the tech stuff is interesting enough, there is not much here that you'll miss if you have to take a quick bathroom break. When the denouement comes, there is enough happening that you DON'T see every curve in the road before it happens. Except for one, and by that time the movie is over.
Halle Berry plays the stewardess who gets tipped to the presence of the commandos, and assists them as best she can. The audience groaned at Marla Maples Trump as the other stewardess (it's a NY thing--you either love the Trumps or you hate 'em) and filed out before the credits began to roll. No cheering, but no dissatisfaction either.
Executive Decision isn't enough to keep you Krazy Glued to your seat, but it is good enough to justify the price increase mania that has been sweeping through Cranky's stomping grounds in the Big Apple. Luckily, I saw Executive Decision at the old price. So . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Executive Decision, he would have paid . . .
Would've been $7, but the large Coke came back at me twice, and I still didn't miss a thing . . .
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