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Air Force One Down (2024) Review

When Air Force One Down begins, Allison Miles (Katherine McNamara, Assimilate, Shadowhunters) has already made a name for herself as one of the first female Marines to qualify for special operations. That has impressed Uncle Sam, both the US government and her actual Uncle Sam (Anthony Michael Hall, The Breakfast Club, Halloween Kills), to offer her a job with the Secret Service, something she’s happy to accept.

And she’s going to get thrown in the deep end at her new job as on her first day, one of the agents on the President’s detail calls in sick. He’s one of several federal employees to suddenly come down with a bad case of lead poisoning. Sam drafts her to replace him, working with him to protect President Edwards (Ian Bohen, Yellowstone, 5 Souls), whom she is not a fan of, on his trip to the fictional Eastern European nation of Astovia.

The problem is, General Rodinov (Rade Sherbedgia, X-Men: First Class, 5 Days of War) isn’t a fan of President Edwards or his own country’s leader President Hasak (Pavel Vladimirov, Sex Academy: Men, 211) either, and he plans to do something about it. That involves hijacking Air Force One, taking President Edwards hostage and forcing him to renege on an oil deal with Hasak which somehow will let Rodinov return to power.

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If the plot sounds like writer Steven Paul (Never Too Young to Die, Vindicta) took the plot of Air Force One and mashed it up with White House Down, you’re not far from the truth. It’s also a plot that would seem to be a great fit for James Bamford, who worked as a stuntman in everything from Reign of Fire and Trick ‘r Treat to Maximum Conviction and Elysium before directing TV shows and making his feature film debut with Air Force One Down.

The problems with Air Force One Down aren’t due to an inexperienced director, however. It’s a plot that stretches credibility to the breaking point and a budget that can’t match the script’s ambitions. I know that governments are not always known for their efficiency, but are we really expected to believe that some wannabe warlord can infiltrate the US government to the extent he can place his men in the Secret Service and high enough in the Air Force to pilot Air Force One? Or that they don’t vet the journalists who are allowed to fly with the President? Or that it’s that easy to smuggle a gun on board?

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Air Force One Down also asks us to believe that General Rodinov, who seems to be a dollar store version of Octopussy’s General Orlov, has technology that can not only take over the plane’s communications, but transmit a false radar image to hide what is happening. When we see his control centre, though, it’s what looks like a room in an abandoned factory with computers producing images that look like they came from thirty-year-old video games. Hardly the equipment for making beyond cutting edge technology.

A sub-plot concerning a traitor in the President’s staff seems to be there simply to stretch the script out to feature length. Their identity couldn’t be more obvious if it was tattooed on their forehead, and it adds little beyond a weak bit of gun play. Cutting this out and using the time for a couple more fights would have improved the film.

The biggest problem though is Paul’s decision to have Miles and the President exit the plane near the end of the first act. Not only does it look anything but heroic, once they realize her plan Rodinov’s men kill all the hostages, it ruins what little novelty the film had. Without Air Force One, Air Force One Down becomes another generic low budget action film with too little action and the usual bland forests and abandoned buildings serving as locations. At least this time, Bulgaria is being passed off as another Eastern European location, rather than badly imitating the United States.

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The action scenes we do get are well choreographed, with Bamford and fight coordinator Pavel Avilov (Cossacks, The Pleasure Principle) doing their best to make McNamara look convincing taking out guys twice her size. Unfortunately, some extremely shaky camera work and obvious speeding up of the footage undermine the results. This is very noticeable in an extended video game style sequence near the end. By contrast, the only time somebody else gets to fight, a brief escape attempt by the President, is considerably less manipulated.

Air Force One Down could have been an enjoyable, if forgettable, Die Hard in the Sky outing and a decent way to pass an hour and a half. Instead, apart from a few fight scenes, it’s a mess on the level of DC Down rather than comparable to either of the films it wants to cash in on.

Paramount Global Content Distribution released Air Force One Down in theatres on :February 9th and to VOD and Digital Platforms on the 13th.

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