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Review: 'Air Force One' gets the 4K Presidential treatment

Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 4:52 PM Central

by John Couture

Thanks to Die Hard, most of the 1990s action films shared a very particular look and feel to them. Heck, they basically shared the same plot with terrorists hellbent on taking over something and using hostages to leverage their negotiation.

Air Force One is no exception to this trend. Released in 1997, this movie was Harrison Ford's Die Hard moment and he embraces the corny action cliches every chance that he gets. It also helps that he's got a wealth of riches in his supporting cast that more than pull their own weight during the few minutes that he's not onscreen.

After delivering a zero-tolerance speech on terrorism in Moscow, the President becomes a hostage when Russian neo-nationalists hijack Air Force One. Now, the President has to either negotiate with the terrorists or prove that his speech wasn't simply an empty promise.

As the 4K UHD format takes off, studios will start to pick and choose which movies will get the honored 4K treatment. These decisions are quite interesting and oftentimes befuddling. Take Air Force One for example. I would not have put it in the top ten films that Sony should release on 4K UHD, but here we are.

It was released on the midterm election day, so perhaps someone in Sony's marketing department was hoping to ride the coattails of a heavy turnout to home entertainment success. Who knows? I do know that there's nothing wrong with bringing Air Force One out on 4K UHD and I'm sure that it's one of Sony's better evergreen catalog titles, but where's 2012 or any of the James Bond films?

I kid, sort of, but I'm not complaining. Air Force One is one of my favorite action films from the 1990s and I was excited to revisit it on 4k UHD. I was a bit concerned though that the film wouldn't hold up and would simply just be a quaint reminder of an earlier time when big explosions were fun.

I was quite relieved to discover that not only does the film hold up quite well to the ravages of time, but the current political landscape actually lends some gravitas to Air Force One. This isn't an indictment on President Trump and the last thing I want to do is to turn this review into anything political but does anyone honestly think that President Trump would make the same decision as President James Marshall and forego the escape pod to stay and fight the terrorists?

I'm no expert, but if I were a betting man and this situation where to play out in real life, my money is on them finding him in the escape pod. Of course, that would make for a lousy movie and the last thing we need to do is compare real-life politicians to their onscreen counterparts.

As I mentioned, the film is still an enjoyable watch and continues to hit all of the right marks. More than that, Air Force One is a movie that elicits a certain rah-rah patriotism that today's status quo is sorely lacking. At the end of the day, we are wholeheartedly cheering for President Marshall and that's hard to believe in the current political climate.

Beyond Harrison Ford, the supporting cast is quite impressive. Namely, Glenn Close and Gary Oldman turn in the biggest roles as the Vice President and the lead terrorist respectively. But beyond even them, you have strong performances from William H. Macy, Dean Stockwell and Wendy Crewson to round out this amazing cast. Beyond the spectacular premise, the film works because of its stellar cast.

The new 4K transfer looks amazing, but they didn't go back and clean up the film too much. These older films earn their authenticity in the film grain and imperfections and I'm happy to see that they are erring on the side of keeping some of these things intact. Delivering a pristine cut of these older films would almost assuredly be jarring.

The real highlight of the 4K UHD Blu-ray though is the new Dolby Atmos audio track. While it's true that Air Force One has never looked better thanks to its new high-resolution transfer, it's the audio track that improves the most. Compared to the existing track on the Blu-ray, there is no comparison at the Atmos track provides a depth and richness that truly helps to emulate a mile-high battle in your living room.

The 4K UHD version of Air Force One is easily the definitive version of the film, but I was a bit bummed that there wasn't more on the collection. The film celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and the only bonus feature to be found on this collection is a legacy audio track from director Wolfgang Petersen. Don't get me wrong, it is enjoyable and inciteful at times, but it simply left be wondering what Wolfgang has been up to lately.

That being said, it's time to upgrade your collection and the 4K UHD version of Air Force One is worth the price.