Sony Pictures Home Entertainment re-releases Wolfgang Petersen’s suspense-filled actioner “Air Force One” in a limited edition steelbook.

“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.” “Never tell me the odds.” “I know.” “Get off my plane!” An actor is lucky if they get even one line that stands the test of time, invading the zeitgeist and maintaining its hold on an audience. Harrison Ford has more than most, each one connected to a film that remains, for one reason or another, as memorable and exciting now as it was on release. Back in 2018, Ford’s suspense-filled actioner Air Force One received the 4K UHD treatment and now, nearly five years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment releases director Wolfgang Petersen’s project in a limited edition steelbook for hold-out fans or steelbook collectors to snag.

After making the declaration that the United States would no longer negotiate with terrorists while giving a speech as a guest in Russia, President James Marshall (Ford) boards Air Force One with his wife Grace (Wendy Crewson), daughter Alice (Liesel Matthews), several high-ranking members of his staff, as well as members of the press to head back to the States. What he doesn’t realize is that a terrorist group lead by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman) have infiltrated the plane posing as press with the intention to take the plane and challenge the President’s new declaration with one of their own: release General Alexander Radek (Jürgen Prochnow) or say goodbye to the First Lady and First Daughter. Confined to the skies and with lives on the line, President Marshall must use his wits to outsmart and out-maneuver Korshunov and his team before too many lives are lost.

As for the film itself and what it actually is, it completely holds up after 25 years. Petersen’s direction makes the film engaging and tense, Ford is charismatic with a performance that maintains the illusion of being grounded in reality despite the heightened circumstances, and the script by Marlowe (outside of some obvious exposition dumps that are slightly out of character for individuals in certain roles) quickly sets up the relationships of the characters in a natural way so that the stakes never drop when Korshunov takes over the plane. Running just over two hours, one expects a certain drop in tension, an easing back to allow the audience to breathe, but even those moments are smartly crafted so that the momentum never lets up, we’re just more comfortable with what’s occurring. But once the audience gets comfy, Marlowe finds a new gear to hit, so that when Ford delivers the famous line, you almost want to cheer.

The thing that I, personally, have always dug about Ford is that he never *looks* like an action star, even if he is one. His characters are as cerebral as they are physically capable, enabling them to make audiences believe in their abilities to survive. In this case, as President Marshall tries to survive a Die Hard-on-a-plane-type situation, Marlowe first ensures that the audience knows how close Marshall is to his presidential team, as well as the flight crew, each one making their comments about a sporting event that the President plans to watch during the flight home. It’s a small thing, but it rapidly establishes the type of chummy person he is, enabling us to understand that he’s someone who leads with empathy and honesty, and that even one loss of life on the flight will surely carry significance. Later, it’s mentioned by one of the members of his presidential Cabinet to Glenn Close’s Vice President Kathryn Bennett that Marshall served in Vietnam and is a great pilot. This quick bit of dialogue (very expository though it may be) helps establish for the audience that Marshall isn’t just a politician who makes policy claims from a soft heart, but from a warrior’s perspective, specifically one from a war that the United States lost and whose soldiers were often derided. Not only does this information help the audience to understand that Marshall is going to be reasonably capable in his situation, it also explains why he made the policy in the first place and why his empathy matters. Air Force One can be read as a simple suspense-filled hostage film, these details shift the whole project into something far more thoughtful and rich, enabling the audience to get wrapped up in everything fully. Details matter and they all work together to create a lasting experience.

As for this re-release, be advised that there’s nothing new between the 2018 standard 4K UHD edition and the steelbook, save for the packaging. So if you’re hoping that this non-official 26th anniversary edition (Sony isn’t advertising it as such) will have something that adds to the watch, I’m sorry to disappoint you. However, if you didn’t snag the 2018 edition, let’s talk about the steelbook as this is an aspect that may shift things for some cinephiles, collectors, and general film fans.

Though not mentioned in the press materials, the artist responsible for the steelbook design is Sam Green. Based in England, the illustrator and graphic artist has collaborated with Netflix, WB, Sony Pictures, and others on a variety of projects. This one is particularly lovely and is on target with conveying the tone of the film. The front cover is a beautiful montage of four significant characters (Korshunov, Marshall, William H. Macy’s Major Caldwell, and Bennett) placed above a rendering of the plane getting hit by a rocket, referencing a decisive gambit that Marshall puts in motion in order to gain the upper hand over the terrorists. The back is a combination of three fighter jets placed strategically around what appears to be a targeting scope to the tail of Air Force One. This is, sadly, the end of the design as nothing is printed on the interior of the case. When so many posters for theatrical releases tend to follow the same “floating head” or kaleidoscope concept, artwork like Green’s comes off like an absolute revelation, making the purchase just that much more attractive.

Illustrator & Graphic Artist Sam Green’s AIR FORCE ONE steelbook design for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Having not seen the film in a decade or more, I’m delighted to report that it holds up. It’s tense and exciting in direction, the scripting is solid so that everything just flows with natural tension-breakers, and the performances are engaging whether as leads or supporting. It’s absolutely a bummer that there’s nothing new included with the release in terms of bonus features beyond the previously released director’s commentary, as having the ability to learn what the cast and crew think about the longevity of the project beyond the famous one-liner would be fascinating to explore. Ultimately, snagging this really comes down to whether you already own the 4K UHD edition or if you think the steelbook design is enough to re-purchase.

Air Force One Special Features:

4K UHD Disc

  • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos + 5.1 audio
  • Special Feature:
  • Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Disc:

  • Feature presented in high definition
  • 5.1 audio
  • Commentary with Director Wolfgang Petersen

Available on 4K UHD limited edition steelbook March 7th, 2023.

For more information, head to the official Sony Pictures Air Force One webpage.


Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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