| Air Force One
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Wolfgang Petersen is a film director.
Air Force One (1997) is an excellent thriller in the Die Hard
Frontal Composition - and Renaissance Perspective
Its superb compositions tend to be frontal, with the set and the
actors receding to the depths in full Renaissance perspective.
Such an approach is suitable for the deep corridors of an airplane,
but it is also used by Peterson for the outdoor shots and the
The camera often moves forward with great propulsion
down these deep perspective depths, straight to the rear, with a character often
making an entrance or a climactic dramatic moment when the camera
reaches the far end of the shot. This film shows the power of camera movement.
There are also many lateral camera movements straight along the side of a long corridor,
or a table full of White House staffers. Sometimes these lateral movements
end with a turn, giving a more frontal look at a group of characters.
The circular camera movement around the White House
staff room towards the end is also effective, using a device that
has often been a trap for less gifted directors.
Side Views/Inauthentic vs. Front Views/Good Guys
The shots tend to be dead on frontal in the film, giving a series
of rectangular compositions on the screen. On fairly rare occasions,
Peterson employs a forty five degree angle instead, to look at
things. These shots tend to be of things that are "inauthentic"
By contrast, the heroes of the film tend to be shown front on.
- For example, a shot of a TV showing a television news
program is shown at an angle; it is not "real" but a TV show.
- Peterson sometimes shows maps on a wall at
such an angle; maps are just diagrams of reality, not real themselves.
- Most importantly, he films the rebel general waiting for his release
from prison at this same angle. The angle implies that he is a
false, inauthentic leader. He is putting on a general's uniform
that he does not deserve, the camera angle implies.
Petersen also shows a gift with his groupings of people. The hostages on
the plane, and the White House staffers, are continually placed
in patterns that are both visually pleasing, and dramatically
Teams of Soldiers
The soldiers in the films tend to come in groups, all dressed
in similar uniforms:
All of these groups work effectively as teams.
Petersen clearly has great respect for all of them.
there are a few solitary soldiers, notably the young Marine officer
in the White House.
- There are the terrorists who take over the plane,
- the ground crew who watch in puzzlement as the plane takes
off in Germany (a good composition),
- the commandos who launch
the opening raid,
- a group of high ranking Naval officers in the
White House staff room (also well composed at one key point),
- the fighter pilots who escort the plane,
- the pilots of Air Force One,
- the rebel officers who wait saluting the released general Radik,
- the paratroopers who launch the rescue of Air Force One
at the end,
- the winch crew,
- and the crew who salutes Harrison Ford at the end.
Most of these teams tend to be all young, white males.
There are several sympathetic black characters in
the film, but they are all individuals, not part of any group,
such as the general at the White House, and the Future Postmaster
General of the United States. The black people in the film tend
to use their brains, and be the source of positive ideas. The
teams, on the other hand, tend to do their duty, and have members
that show little individuality or real intelligence.
The Air Force
Officer played by William Macy also works as a thinking individual
in the film; although a white male, he functions in a manner similar
to the black characters in the movie.
The character played by
Harrison Ford also is a source of ideas, and the film shows him
repeatedly cut off from teams, and functioning on his own. At
the beginning, he violates the safe ideas of his staff to give
a speech showing personal moral commitment. Of course, through
much of the film he has the Bruce Willis Die Hard role
of solitary fighter against the terrorists. Symbolically, at the
start he keeps trying to watch a football game, America's symbol
of team immersion, and keeps getting frustrated in the event.
He will be an individual whether he wants to or not.
Ford has a personal contact with most of the black characters in the film,
and with Macy: the General commanded him in Vietnam, the Postmaster
will work with him directly on the plane, the only person to do
so, and he will be in phone contact with black men on the ground.
Ford, the blacks, and Macy form a network of individuals, people
who all make a difference when the tides of history put the world
to the crunch.