Monday, February 05, 2024

Air Force One Down: Protecting the President from Terrorists & Environmentalists

Fictional "Astovia" sounds a lot like Estonia, especially when characters say it quickly. Instead, it probably ought to sound more like Azerbaijan, except oil-rich Astovia is trying to democratize and turn towards the West. Rather logically, the President of the United States wants to encourage that process, but he is opposed by a paramilitary Astovian warlord and anti-petroleum extremists in his own administration. Fortunately, he has rookie secret service agent Allison Miles guarding him when his presidential ride is hijacked in James Bamford’s Air Force One Down, which releases this Friday in theaters.

Maj. Miles has always been patriotic, so when her Uncle Sam Waitman finally recruits her for the Secret Service, she leaps at the chance. That is right, he is “Uncle Sam.” It is a name that suits him—and she is her uncle’s niece. She still instinctively salutes recently elected President Edwards (codename: “Falcon”), even though she is skeptical of his privileged background. Nevertheless, Waitman constantly reminds her and their colleagues: “they serve the chair, not the man.” Miles will get her chance to serve both when she is attached to Edwards’ state visit to Astovia, to sign the petroleum treaty. Astovia gets political stability and we get affordable petroleum, so, of course, Vice President Hansen is opposed, as are others in the administration.

As fate would have it, Miles has her first flight on Air Force One exactly when “General” Rodinov launches his attack. Since Waitman was taking her on a tour to soak up how cool it is, they happen to be the only agents not liquidated. They also happen to be the most likely to foil his plans. Soon, Miles must bail out with Falcon, to take their chances, in the Astovian countryside. There is also the matter of the traitor, who compromised Air Force One.

Air Force One Down
is a VOD-action thriller that finally understands its key market demographic. It never insults the Secret Service agents and military personnel who serve and protect the office of the president. Viewers might guess the no-so hidden Judas, but it is refreshing screenwriter Steven Paul does not serve up yet another military coup (which would be derivative of films like Seven Days in May and also besmirch our Armed Services).

The cast is also far stronger than you might expect. Anthony Michael Hall perfectly exudes Waitman’s hardnosed dignity. Katherine McNamara and Ian Bohen have surprisingly good chemistry as Miles and Falcon. McNamara shows off some strong action chops, handling most of the fight scenes. However, even though Falcon is not Harrison Ford in Wolfgang Petersen’s
Air Force One (which this film still isn’t), he is no pushover either. In this case, viewers can buy his Air Force background (before he returned to the good graces of his well-heeled family).

Perhaps somewhat unfairly, Rade Serbedzija has played a heck of a lot of villains, since his breakout role in
Before the Rain, but he has instant credibility as Rodinov. The rest of the bad guys are almost entirely interchangeable, but Miles’s scenes fighting, shooting, and blowing them up are staged quite nicely.

Air Force One Down is not the most ambitious action movie ever, but it maintains a strong energy level and it never lets down or insults its core audience. As a point of comparison, military and law enforcement families will enjoy this movie much more than I.S.S. Recommended as a redmeat streamer, Air Force One Down opens this Friday (2/9) in theaters (and it releases digitally on 2/13).