Executive Decision is the 1996 action film starring Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt and John Leguizamo. A group of terrorists hijack a 747 airliner headed from Athens to Washington D.C. with the stated objective of releasing their leader. An intelligence expert thinks that the real reason is to release nerve gas over Washington D.C. and that the plane shouldn’t be allowed to enter U.S. airspace.
The movie opens with Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) leading a U.S. Army Special Forces raid on a Chechen mafia safe house near Trieste Italy. They are unsuccessful in recovering the Soviet nerve agent, DZ-5, that they came after as it had already been moved. In the raid, Travis loses one of his men.
Three months later, El Sayed Jaffa (Andreas Katsulas), one of the world’s most feared terrorists, is apprehended. Shortly after this, Oceanic Airlines Flight 343, a Boeing 747-200, from Athens to Washington D.C. is hijacked by Jaffa’s second in command, Nagi Hassan (David Suchet) and a number of Jaffa’s men. Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell), an intelligence consultant, is summoned to the Pentagon for a top level meeting about the hijacking. While at the briefing, Grant theorizes that Hassan’s main objective is to release the DZ-5 in US airspace and not the release of Jaffa. Travis comes up with the idea of using an experimental F-117 that can dock with other aircraft to take out the terrorists and defuse the bomb.
Travis, his Special Forces team, Grant and engineer Dennis Cahill (Oliver Platt) all board the F-117 and head toward the intercept point of the hijacked 747. The initial docking goes ok. Then the two planes hit turbulence while the assault team is transferring from the F-117 to the 747. Cappy (Joe Morton) is seriously injured. Grant goes to help him and then the docking sleeve begins to break. Travis sacrifices himself to save the rest of the team by closing the 747 hatch. The F-117 breaks up and is lost. The surviving assault team members plus Grant and Cahill find that they have lost half of their equipment and have no communication to the outside. Just after they get onboard, the group is nearly discovered when the pilot checks in the hold they are in to see why a warning light is going off.
The group begins searching the plane for the DZ-5 and putting a map together of where the terrorists are onboard the plane. The group finds the bomb, which an injured Cappy and Cahill work on disarming the bomb while the rest of the group works on their assault plan. Back at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Charles White (Len Cariou) and other top military leaders decide to release Jaffa since they have not heard from the assault team. After Jaffa is released and working on the bomb, the team realizes there is a sleeper onboard who controls the bomb. Grant decides to contact Jean, a flight attendant, who had protected him from being seen earlier by Hassan in order to help him find the sleeper. Jean thinks she has found the sleeper just before a flight of four F-14 Tomcats arrive to escort the 747 away from US airspace.
U.S. Senator Mavros (J. T. Walsh) tries to negotiate with the Secretary of Defense before he realizes Hassan is going to kill him as a warning. Hassan kills Mavros to show that he is serious about his endeavor. One of the team uses the tail lights of the 747 to signal the Tomcats to let them know the team is on the plane and not to shoot it down.
Grant and Jean begin the assault to take back the plane by going after the sleeper. When they get to the man that Jean thought had the electronic device, it turns out to be a case of diamonds. Grant immediately spots the real sleeper, Jean-Paul Demou (Robert Apisa), the man who built the DZ-5 bomb. The rest of the team begins the assault and takes out all of the terrorists except Hassan. During the assault, Cappy and Cahill disarm the bomb and some stray bullets go through the plane’s fuselage and cause the plane to decompress. In a last ditch effort to destroy the plane, Hassan kills the pilots in hopes of crashing the plane. He is killed by one of the Special Forces members.
Grant, with the help of Jean, tries to land at Washington Dulles International Airport despite barely knowing how to fly. He misses the approach at Dulles, but then heads to nearby Frederick Field. He lands the plane, but the runway is too short so the 747 ends up going into the sand berm in the overrun area. The movie ends with Grant and Jean heading off in a FBI car together to get a cup of coffee and then to a debriefing.
Executive Decision is a good action movie. Kurt Russell, Halle Berry and the rest of the cast do a good job in their roles. The movie has some good action scenes as well as flying sequences. Executive Decision has an ending that includes Frank Sinatra singing its Nice To Go Traveling. If you like action movies or Kurt Russell movies, then Executive Decision
is worth a watch.