It was Ford in a landslide. Nope, not Ford as in Gerald who lost to Jimmy Carter, but Ford as in Harrison who walked away with our Movie Smackdown presidential poll, taking 26.4% of the votes in a ten-man race.
Ford played President James Marshall in the 1997 film, “Air Force One.” Marshall has just gone to Moscow where he’s told the entire world he will not negotiate with terrorists. Then, on the flight home, Russian neo-nationalists hijack Air Force One forcing an ugly decision on Marshall: give in to terrorist demands or sacrifice not only the country’s dignity, but the lives of his wife and daughter. Well, there is one thing in his favor. He’s a military guy, a winner of the Medal of Honor, and he’s going to fight back.
Apparently we liked this version of the Marshall Plan a lot because when given ten of the top performances by an actor as a president to choose from, our Movie Smackdown voters gave a clear and convincing mandate to Harrison Ford. Here’s our results:
The secret to Harrison Ford’s victory in our electoral Smackdown was pretty much nailed by David Letterman who, at the time, described Ford as an “ass-kicking President.” Ford was very much still an action star when this came out, giving us a credible James Marshal who was a Vietnam vet and a Medal of Honor winner capable of single-handedly saving himself, his family and America. It is basically “Die Hard on a Plane with the President” and the surprise is how much fun it was/is.
Air Force One received generally positive reviews from critics, with an overall approval rating of 78% on from “Rotten Tomatoes.” It’s very over-the-top (the real president was fooling around with interns when it came out) but in that crowd pleasing, pop-corn munching way that really works. And it wasn’t just popular in America. It grossed a total of $315-million worldwide, nearly half of the money coming from overseas.
Real-President Bill Clinton saw the film twice and gave it good reviews. Technically, though, Clinton said that key elements of the film’s plane, such as the escape pod and the rear parachute ramp, did not reflect actual features of Air Force One. In the audio commentary, director Wolfgang Petersen opined that the film “Air Force One” would probably force the real “Air Force One” to adopt such measures. If anyone knows if the film influenced reality in this way, leave a comment, we’d love to know.
The secret to why we remember this film and Ford’s role so fondly is the Marshall character. He thinks on his feet, he’s able to brawl if he needs to, and we hope that he fights half as fiercely for America as he does for his family. Contrast this to the President in “Independence Day” which takes this Action-Hero President character to the ultimate Earth-Saving super-sizing. Ford’s character takes the performance up to a millimeter away from credibility but he grounds it and it works.
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; one for Best Film Editing, the other for Best Sound. It didn’t win either but it sure cleaned up in our election.
“Air Force One” is the winner. By a landslide. Hail to the Chief!