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I expected EXECUTIVE DECISION ($25) to be another one of those "check your brains at the door" action movies, and in that regard I was right. Yet I found the execution to be so much fun that the obvious holes in the logic of screenplay went completely overlooked. Kurt Russell stars as a desk bound consultant to military intelligence who is pressed into active service when a transatlantic flight is hijacked by a fanatical group of Middle Eastern terrorists. In addition to taking the 747, the terrorists have also stowed a lethal nerve-toxin aboard the plane, which they have wired to a hair-triggered bomb. 

To save the lives of the passengers as well as 40 million others on the ground, a daring mid-air infiltration is executed. This allows an elite team of commandos to attempt to retake the plane and defuse the bomb. First time director Stuart Baird keeps the tension level high, and the viewer on the edge of their seat throughout the proceedings. In addition to Kurt Russell, the cast of EXECUTIVE DECISION also includes Halle Berry, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Joe Morton, David Suchet, Len Cariou, B.D. Wong, Andreas Katsulas and Steven Seagal. It’s great to see Steven Seagal taking on a smaller supporting role. Better yet, is seeing David Suchet, best known for his role as Hercule Poirot on British television, as the villain in a mainstream American movie. Suchet is a truly fine actor who adds a touch of class to the film, and makes a big impression as the fanatical villain.

I really enjoyed EXECUTIVE DECISION when I first saw it on Laserdisc, but I enjoyed it even more on DVD. Warner Home Video has presented both Letterboxed and pan and scan editions of the film on this DVD, but to get the full impact of the film one will want to stick with the Letterboxed version. EXECUTIVE DECISION was produced in anamorphic wide screen and the viewer loses far too much of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio to the pan and scan process. The pan and scan process makes the action too difficult to follow. Plus the film looses its sense of composition. As to the quality of the pan and scan transfer itself, it looks good and has solid color. The image is blown up, so it is slightly grainy at times. The biggest problem with blowing up the image is that it magnifies every slight imperfection in the film element. Black and white specks of dust become quite noticeable on the pan and scan transfer. The Letterboxed transfer restores EXECUTIVE DECISION to its proper theatrical framing, and it also restores the film’s soul. EXECUTIVE DECISION is rousing escapist entertainment and the Letterboxing brings the viewer as close to the theatrical experience as they will ever get in a home theater setting. The image is razor sharp, which makes it slightly sharper than the Laserdisc. That’s not to say that the Laserdisc is excellent in its own right. The colors are also somewhat better on the DVD; more saturated without any video noise. Digital artifacts were inconsequential on either version of the film. 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack really kicks. The mix features plenty of channel separation, plus the sound field envelopes the viewer during the big action sequences. There is also a matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack on the two channel analog output. The interactive menus feature biographies, filmographies and production notes. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.


Executive Decision (1996)



DVD reviews are Copyright 1997 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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