Air Force One: Special Edition (1997)

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Released 6-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Teaser Trailer
Audio Commentary-Wolfgang Petersen (Director)
Alternate Subtitles-In Flight Entertainment
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 119:37 (Case: 124)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Wolfgang Petersen

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Harrison Ford
Gary Oldman
Glenn Close
Wendy Crewson
William H. Macy
Liesel Matthews
Dean Stockwell
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
German Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
English Information
German Information
Swedish Information
Danish Information
Norwegian Information
Finnish Information
Spanish Information
Smoking Yes, bad guys smoke on an aircraft!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The USA is a strange place, inhabited by strange people. They seem to have extreme arrogance (who else would call their local baseball finals "The World Series", even though no other country bar Canada participates? We have more right to call the AFL Grand Final "The World Final"...), and some hypocritical attitudes. For example, the way they treat their President combines cynicism (after Clinton and Nixon, who can blame them?) with near-worship. An aircraft with the President aboard uses the call-sign "Air Force One", rather than "US Air Force One" - more of the same.

    Air Force One is about the President's jet. Harrison Ford plays the President (no, he isn't the real President yet, but he's still young...). He has recently authorised US special forces to kidnap the self-declared President of Kazakhstan, a General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow), because Radek was threatening use of nuclear weapons. Radek has been turned over to the Russians, and at the start of the movie we see Harrison Ford addressing a banquet in Moscow that is celebrating this event. He does not give the speech that was prepared for him: he makes a bold statement that terrorism will no longer be tolerated, and that the US will take action against terrorism (interesting, given that this movie was made four years ago, and Kazakhstan adjoins Afghanistan). After giving this incendiary speech, the President, and his entourage, head straight for the airport to board their private jet (the normal custom-built Air Force One) and fly home.

    Despite all the elaborate precautions,  hijackers get aboard as members of the press (you can tell they are hijackers - they look sinister), and they take over the plane. That is all the plot I am going to give you, because the twists are quite cool, and I don't want to spoil them for you.

    Gary Oldman is very good at playing people who aren't nice. You've probably seen him in a number of movies, but he isn't always recognisable. As a watcher of DVDs you have almost certainly seen The Fifth Element, in which he plays Zorg, the industrialist/schemer. This time he is a straight-out terrorist, and he plays it well: there is a little bit of chewing on the scenery, but that fits well enough with the character.

    Glenn Close is credible as the Vice-president, although she doesn't get a lot of opportunity to do more than look worried. Wendy Crewson makes a good first lady. A little prettier than might be expected, but this is a movie. Dean Stockwell plays his usual irritating part - perfect in context. The supporting actors are good: in the commentary Wolfgang Petersen mentions that he made a point of trying to hire Russians to play Russians - an interesting idea.

    There are some spectacular special effects in this movie, some major fireworks. One of the most spectacular effects is given away by more than the trailer - it is used as the transition between menus, so you see it over and over...

    For a while I was a bit concerned about the amount of gunfire on board the plane - normal planes are easily punctured by gunfire, with dramatic results. The commentary points out that this is covered early on, when it is mentioned that Air Force One is specially hardened against gunfire (apparently this is true of the real aircraft, which results in it being heavier and slower than a regular aircraft of its type).

    One last thing I do want to mention. This is a re-release of Air Force One on DVD. It is easy to spot - it has Special Edition across the top of the front cover. The original version was a flipper (the movie stopped part-way through, and you had to turn the disc over to continue) - don't buy the older one by mistake. A number of DVDs have been re-released in this recent batch of Special Editions, and the ones I have seen have been very good indeed (see, for example, The Rock). We should encourage this. I guess that means we should all rush out and buy them.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The picture is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is rather sharp and clean with no edge enhancement. There is plenty of fog and smoke around, but they only affect the background of the image - the foregrounds are nice and sharp. Shadow detail is quite good. There is some low level noise on one scene, around 27:49. I would have rated the sharpness more highly, except that I got to compare it with the Region 1 Superbit version (more about that later).

    Colour is good. There is no colour bleed, and no oversaturation.

    There are few, if any, film artefacts - there are a few tiny marks, but they could well be background MPEG glitches. There are some instances of aliasing, but not in the least distracting. In all, this is a clean transfer.

    The DVD standard supports up to 32 subtitle streams. This is the first DVD I've ever seen which uses all 32. Not all of them are conventional subtitles, although there are a heck of a lot of languages to choose from. There are subtitles for the soundtrack, for the commentary, and most of the rest are used for the In-Flight Entertainment extra.

    The disc is single-sided, dual layer, in RSDL format. The layer change is placed at 69:12. This is not a great layer change - you can see it quite easily - but it is not too bad.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are soundtracks in many languages: I listened to the English. It is Dolby Digital 5.1. There is also a director's commentary, and I listened to that too.

    The dialogue is easy to understand even with the multiplicity of accents. There are no audio sync problems.

    The score is superb - Jerry Goldsmith at his best. This is another action film that would not be as good without the score. It is an enveloping mix, and really part of the experience.

    The surround speakers are used continuously, mostly for score, but there are some superb directional effects. The subwoofer gets a thorough workout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are animated with music, and are themed to the movie. There are transitions between menus, but they all use the same transition - it gets a bit tiresome.

Teaser Trailer (1:44)

    A standard trailer - nothing special.

Featurette (6:35)

    A standard fluff piece - a few behind-the-scenes shots, but really little more than an extended trailer.

Audio Commentary - Wolfgang Petersen (Director)

    A slight variation on the regular commentary -  we don't get Wolfgang Petersen by himself, but with two others (one of whom does not identify himself). The extra people guide Wolfgang Peterson - he provides all the information, but they ask questions and suggest things. Well worth a listen. I found it amusing that there is a big disclaimer page before you get to hear the commentary.

In-Flight Entertainment

    This is cool. It switches on a special subtitle track (choice of languages). These subtitles mention all manner of trivia - mostly interesting. This is good fun, especially when you've seen the movie the first time. The Rock has a similar feature, which looks like it is becoming more common.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is another complicated comparison. This is the second R4 version of the disc (the first was a flipper, so it is very definitely inferior). There are at least two Region 1 versions too. The Region 1 version I have is the Superbit version. Superbit is a new thing: it is intended for purists, and has only one soundtrack (the dialogue in the original language, presented in Dolby Digital and dts), and a few subtitle tracks. The rest of the data space is devoted to the video, and the intention is to produce the highest quality video possible. So the comparison is between a Region 4 disc with extras with a Region 1 that has no extras.

    The Superbit disc does exactly what you would expect - it provides superb quality video. It is noticeably better than the Region 4, but the difference is not large enough to make it a simple choice. On a television (rather than a projector) you might well judge the two as having equivalent video. Under those conditions, I suggest that the extras, and the price, make a difference - the Region 4 disc is attractive.

    Oh, there is one other difference: the layer change is utterly invisible on the Superbit disc. I don't know how they did it, because the layer change occurs in the middle of a scene, but it is completely invisible.


    A thrilling movie, presented superbly on DVD.

    The video quality is high.

    The audio quality is superb.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, November 19, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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