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Air Force One (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

I’m not sure what milestone hit for Wolfgang Petersen’s Air Force One to jump to Blu-ray, but I’m not going to question grabbing an awesome 1990s action movie here on the best format with both a picture and audio jump in quality. Perhaps they selected putting the Harrison Ford US President defends his plane against terrorists film on November 6th to coincide with the midterm elections that took place earlier in the week. If so, you’re one clever little pony over there, Sony. As mentioned, this new edition will feature a new Atmos mix and will carry over the Wolfgang Petersen audio commentary from the previous release (“Legacy Bonus Features” being the hot term now). I apologize for no pre-order link (Amazon’s search is more difficult than need be for it), but I’m sure if you peruse the internet well enough, you’ll be able to snag a copy. 

Film 

After making a speech in Moscow vowing to never negotiate with terrorists, President James Marshall boards Air Force One with his family and advisers. When a group of terrorists led by Ivan Korshuno hijacks the flight, the President’s principles are put to the test. Feigning escape, ex-solider Marshall stows away in the aircraft and must race against time to rescue his family and everyone else on board.

Simply enough, Air Force One is Harrison Ford’s Die Hard. That was the popular blueprint for the action movie from the late 1980s all the way through the 1990s. Luckily, this one lands on the Speed side of being terrific rather than being crummy or laughable. The film raises its stakes on the action subgenre by making the McClane character the President of the United States. And for all intensive purposes, as I type this, I see what kind of a disaster this movie could have been because it sounds really stupid on paper.

Luckily, we have capable hands making it, and a top notch cast to pull it off. The film is one that manages to really establish stakes and develop characters in what feels like a super quick 2 plus hours film. Things are dangerous, anyone could be off’d at any given moment, nobody is safe, and damn there are some heartbreaking and nailbiting decisions and situations we and the characters are put through in the film. Not to mention the film hits hard with its gunshots and punches. They have the intensity level on it just right.

Outside of the typical Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan and Rick Deckard roles, President James Marshall might be his next most pop culture aware part. Everybody knows “Get off my plane!” Not to mention that Ford is almost the entire reason this movie works. He gets you to buy into everything this movie is selling and without even so much as a snicker at it. They’ve also assembled a hell of a cast of supporting players capable of going toe to toe with the Hollywood icon. The film stops and starts with Ford and quite frankly, the plane never stops until the closing credits land.

Air Force One is a film I probably hadn’t gone back to in over ten years and I had quite frankly forgotten how awesome it really is. This is up there with some of the best action films of the 1990s. It even manages to outdo the other Die Hard on a plane movie, Passenger 57 (A film of which I’m super fond of) in the process. Ford is top notch and man was this guy one of the most glorious superstars of cinema in his prime. Not that Ford isn’t still terrific, but we are here in his peak form with him delivering some of his best stuff in the type of film he’s carried time and time again.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Sony has done a terrific job in remastering Air Force One for its 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut. They have left a nice layer of grain intact and the film feels much more natural and cinematic with improved spacing, color and black levels. The image is crisp and wonderfully detail. If you want to see just how good this thing looks in one moment, check out about an hour and a half in when Ford is being taunted at gunpoint by Oldman. There is lighting, saturation, glow and just finite details like little pieces of debris on the floor that showcase how impressive the picture quality is. Admittedly, there is some CGI that reveals itself in a shot of a crash toward the very end, but that’ll happen with the format and really shouldn’t deter from the otherwise outstanding presentation.

Depth:  Spacing is quite deep and wonderful here with good pushback to improve smoother movements. No distortion issues occur with any rapid action as well.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and well saturated in this image. The shadow work is a highlight of the film’s look here as it allows colors to pop more. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors have a nice glow to them when a light emanates from something or there is a dark moment and something like a plane light, fire or buttons from a console are glowing from the screen thanks to the HDR. Natural colors have good saturation helping to give you a “to the touch” feeling on things like clothing texture and the like. There is a really cool green glow in fighter jet cockpits and fire just bursts right off your screen in explosions. A lot of the dynamite highlights of this whole thing come from the exterior scenes of fighters and the Air Force One out in the nighttime sky.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent start to finish. Facial textures and definition are quite visible from any given reasonable distance. Freckles, wrinkles, stubble, sweat, dirt, scars and more come through to an impressive degree.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 2.0 Stereo Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The real star of this new Air Force One 4K Ultra-HD release is certainly this brand new Dolby Atmos track. It’ll make you really feel like you are sneaking around and running from automatic gunfire throughout the plane. The track isn’t loud to be loud, its loud for maximum effect. There is also a tremendously well mixed ambiance that never forgets we are on the plane and has the work being done to a constant level of sounds that is very natural. This is an incredibly fun track and makes the film even that much better just by virtue of an almost interactivity with the audience.

Height: The ceiling channel is incredibly effective here with bullets whizzing by and ricocheting overheard. Buttons making sound, planes roaring overhead and more coming from the top, all feeling natural to events in the film going on at the time.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer has a booming tracking in terms of a roaring plane engine, gun blast, punch or any sort of destructive event.

Surround Sound Presentation: Just like overhead, you get bullets and such knocking around the plane. Everything travels by or is accounted for in its place like such a natural breeze. Traveling sounds rolls freely and easily. Ambiance is done to fantastic levels of realism to fill a room or a plane compartment.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp never inaudible or drowned out in the mix by loud effects or scoring moments.

Extras 

Air Force One 4K Ultra-HD comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Wolfgang Petersen

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:27)

Summary 

Air Force One is hands down one of the best films in the “Die Hard on a…” action subgenre. Sony has brought it over to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray in a very impressive fashion, showcasing some of the best catalog work in video and audio available. Bonus features are light (Though I argue a commentary with the director talking about the film while watching it for over 2 hours is a hell of a “bonus”), but this is a good film with a very strong presentation that sells itself alone.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Air Force One (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Kiara

    Although I prefer comedy plane movies such as Airplane! and Hot Shots this looks good