Sunday, August 25, 2002

Life Imitating Popcorn Entertainment

I had this movie laying around the house for awhile I hadn't watched, a 1996 Kurt Russell action flick called Executive Decision. I finally got around to watching it tonight and for the most part, it was your typical shoot-'em-up action fare. It was the kind of movie you saw all the time in recent years and thought nothing of: Islamic Terrorist Villian with machine guns vs. Clever, American, Blue-eyed Hero with machine guns. Your run-of-the-mill two hours of shooting, daring-do and miraculous escapes. A year ago, this film would have had roughly the emotional impact on me as a Weezer video, if that.

Lots of things have changed since then, though. As the movie played out I found myself completely taken aback by the plot. You see, these particular movie bad guys had hijacked a civilian airliner, a 747 - and were demanding that a fellow terrorist be released from U.S. custody, along with some gold, safe passage, etc. In actuality, though, their plan was to use the plane (which was filled with a nerve gas bomb) as an instrument of attack against Washington D.C. Their leader had planned it all as a suicide mission. Incidentally, his underlings, mostly, seemed to be in the dark about his intent as was just plain spooky to watch after the events of last September.

I won't go into the entire plot, as it's mostly irrelevant - suffice it to say that Kurt and his crack team of commando buddies miraculously save the passengers and the city at the last possible second, as is par for the course for this type of movie, but it's amazing how differently this plays now than it must have when it was made. I realize I'm hardly the first person to point this out, in fact I seem to recall them talking about this on television back when the news of 9/11 was fresh and everyone was looking at it from every possible angle, trying to make sense of what had happened, but I'd never seen the film and it took me by surprise. Scenes that wouldn't have really affected me before (the terrorists shooting hostages, their leader kneeling on a prayer rug in anticipation of the fruition of his plan, the president trying to decide whether to shoot down the plane) suddenly took on a whole new meaning and I felt like I had an emotional investment in the picture. Even the ending felt weird and surreal, with Kurt driving off with the beautiful but brave heroine, everyone safe and sound. I've gone on enough about it, I guess, I would like to add one more thing, though.

Aside from all the cans-of-worms this movie opened up from an intellectual standpoint, there was one thing about it that was absolutely wonderful, pre- or post 9/11: Steven Segal gets killed off in the first twenty minutes. If only all his films were like that.

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