This airborne anti-terrorist suspenser is a slick piece of goods with a dark sense of humor, a highly entertaining arsenal of gadgets and a fair share of unexpected developments. Screenplay borrows liberally from a number of film war horses, in particular the James Bond and Airport franchises.
At the center is Dr David Grant (Kurt Russell), the head of a Washington, DC, anti-terrorist think tank. He’s enlisted into a daredevil mission when a group of Islamic militants hijack an Athens-DC flight and demand $50 million, the release of their captured leader and their own safe passage.
Grant suspects that the squad is also in possession of a deadly nerve gas. Anti-terrorist commando Travis (Steven Seagal) assembles a crack team, and Grant goes to weapon designer Dennis Cahill (Oliver Platt), who takes his stealth prototype out of mothballs to effect a midair assault.
Russell’s credits include a hefty number of he-man roles, but his character in Executive Decision relies more on intellect, ingenuity and charm than sheer muscle.
The first feature of acclaimed editor Stuart Baird, Executive Decision greatly benefits from a first-class behind-the-camera team that includes crack production designer Terence Marsh and ace cameraman Alex Thomson. The Thomas brothers’ script repeatedly draws us down dead-end alleys only to reverse expectations.