During the opening credits I immediately sensed that this was going to be a real 90’s action movie. The bombastic music blew through my surround set. Horns, strings, the works. This music by Jerry Goldsmith is one of the key elements that defines this movie as a part of that decade. A decade in which the invincible action star was basically put to rest and most big budget action films dealt with a Die-Hard-like formula. This decade saw the exploration of CGI but was only used when absolutely deemed necessary. It was only after The Matrix CGI became a standard feature in action movies creating an absolute overkill of bullet-time and totally unconvincing action sequences like the finales in XXX 2 and Torque.
Not so in Executive Decision (released as Critical Decision in some countries) which is a movie about a group of Islamic Terrorists who are trying to use a commercial airliner filled with humans as a weapon to kill even more American civilians. If the killers of James Bulger watched Child’s Play 3 before committing their heinous crimes, Osama Bin Laden watched this one for inspiration.
Executive Decision is also memorable for something else; in the set-up of creating a tense action movie they kill off Steven Seagal’s character pretty early on. It’s a shame if you’re a Seagal fan but quite a bold and surprising move which at the time probably surprised everybody. With only 20 minutes of screen-time Seagal is billed twice, and in some countries even got his face on the poster. I can imagine some people being pissed at this twist of events that marks the only movie in which Seagal actually dies. Since this is during the set up of the movie I don’t really consider this to be a spoiler.
The movie itself is a skillfully made action movie that has got some really tense sequences that will get you to bite your nails even though this is a standard Hollywood picture and thus the outcome is fairly predictable. I like the fact that, in true post-Die Hard fashion, they gave the Terrorists not only a scheme covered up by another scheme but also had a charismatic bad guy. This Nagi Hassan (David Suchet) wants to kill innocent civilians, but quite surprisingly one of his crew-members questions his actions. Quite an original turn in a movie that basically consists action cliches and stock-characters. Despite the cliches Executive Decision is a fun movie filled with great and tense action sequences that have you on the edge of your seat. Despite the lack of screen-time for Steven Seagal this is one of the better movies on his resume. Kurt Russell is his usual self and does a pretty good job. He gets to be more nerdy here this time, so you have to look real good to find traces of Snake Plissken or even Cash (From Tango and Cash).
I think that in some cases film-makers ought to look back at how they made action movies in the 90’s and just put the computer away for a minute so they can’t hit the slow-motion button in every action scene.