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Executive Decision

Executive Decision is a 1996 American action thriller film directed by Stuart Baird in his directorial debut, and stars Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, David Suchet and John Leguizamo. It was released in the United States on March 15, 1996, and grossed $122 million against a $55 million budget.

Executive Decision
Executive decision ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStuart Baird
Produced byJoel Silver
Written by
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyAlex Thomson
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • March 15, 1996 (1996-03-15)
Running time
133 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$55 million[1]
Box office$122.1 million[1]


Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis leads an unsuccessful Special Forces raid on a Chechen mafia safe house in Italy to recover a stolen Soviet nerve agent, DZ-5 during which one of the commandos is killed. Shortly after, Oceanic Airlines Flight 343, a Boeing 747-200 leaves Athens, Greece, bound for Washington, with U.S. Senator Mavros onboard and over 400 passengers. Nagi Hassan, lieutenant of the imprisoned terrorist leader El Sayed Jaffa, and his men hijack the flight, demanding Jaffa's release.

Dr. David Grant, a consultant for the U.S. Army's intelligence community, attends a black-tie ball but is interrupted and summoned to a meeting at the Pentagon to plan an operation to retake the plane. Grant disbelieves Hassan's demands, thinking he engineered Jaffa's capture and plans to use the plane to detonate a bomb loaded with the DZ-5 gas over U.S. airspace in a suicide mission. In the meantime, a suicide bombing destroys a London hotel. The Pentagon authorizes a mid-air transfer of an Army special operations team onto the hijacked airliner using the experimental airplane "Remora F117x". Grant and DARPA engineer Dennis Cahill join Travis' team to intercept the plane.

The Remora docks with the 747, but the mid-air boarding is only partially successful due to turbulence: Sergeant Campbell “Cappy” Matheny is seriously injured in the tunnel with a skull fracture, and Grant boards the plane to assist. The 747 pulls up to escape the turbulence, putting too much stress on the sleeve, and Travis sacrifices himself by closing the 747's hatch before it decompresses, while the stealth craft is torn off and crashes following the ejection of the pilot. The survivors - Grant, Cahill, Cappy, Captain Carlos “Rat” Lopez, Sergeant Louie Jung, and Michael Baker - only have half their gear and no communications equipment, leaving the Pentagon unaware of their survival. With limited options, the commandos conduct a covert search for the supposed bomb. Grant accidentally compromises himself to a flight attendant, Jean, but successfully recruits her despite Hassan's suspicions.

The team locates the bomb, and Cappy, despite his injuries, guides Cahill in disarming it. They believe the bomb is secured when Cappy discovers that its arming device has an additional, remote-controlled trigger. U.S. officials release Jaffa to try and resolve the situation, who calls Hassan from a private jet to tell him he is on his way to Algeria, but Hassan abruptly ends the call. Grant and the others realize Hassan's men don't know about the bomb and his true intentions, shooting one of them dead after he rebukes him, which means that one of the passengers is a sleeper agent and the trigger man for the bomb. Jean spots a man with an electronic device and informs Grant. Mavros is called to speak to the President of the United States, only to realize he is to be sacrificed as a warning that Hassan is serious, and is executed by Hassan. The soldiers use the plane's taillights via Morse code to signal escorting U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat jets that they are on board, requesting an extra ten minutes despite already crossing into US airspace.

Grant enters the passenger cabin with Jean to take the suspected individual by surprise, but he turns out to be an innocent passenger with stolen diamonds. Grant spots the real sleeper: Jean-Paul Demou, the bomb's creator and gets into an intense brawl with him. Hassan attempts to fire at Grant, but is shot by an on-board federal air marshal who in turn is shot and wounded by a terrorist. The commandos storm the cabin as a firefight ensues. Grant struggles to wrestle the remote detonator (a Psion Series 3) from Demou's grip while Baker and Rat gun down several terrorists and Louie assists Grant by fatally gunning down Demou and eliminating the remaining terrorists. However Demou in his last moments manages to arm the bomb before dying and stray bullets from a terrorist's assault rifle that Louie gunned down break the passenger windows, causing explosive decompression which blows Demou's body out of the plane. The bomb is disarmed just in time by Cappy and Cahill, as the plane regains stable flight at a lower altitude. In a last act of desperation, a wounded Hassan shoots Rat and at the cockpit and surrounding area (killing both pilots and damaging the controls, hoping the plane will crash) before being shot and killed by a severely wounded Rat.

Grant assumes control of the 747 and attempts to land it at Washington Dulles International Airport despite his limited piloting experience. He misses the approach, forcing him to go around. Grant recognizes the area surrounding Frederick Field, where he normally practices flying. Deciding to land the 747 there, Grant makes a sloppy but safe landing into a sand berm at the runway's overrun area with Jean's assistance, where the passengers are safely evacuated. Grant is saluted by the team for his leadership, before he is summoned by the Pentagon and invites Jean to accompany him.



On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 64% based on reviews from 39 critics, with an average rating of 6/10.[2] On Metacritic the film has an approval rating of 62 out of 100, based on reviews from 20 critics.[3] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[4]

Leonard Maltin called it "a tense, inventive thriller" which needed more editing.[5] Leonard Klady of Variety wrote, "The picture's logic may be a bit fast and loose, but its action-and-excitement quotient is top-notch."[6] Roger Ebert rated it 3 out of 4 stars, calling it "a gloriously goofy mess of a movie" but praised the first-act plot twist of killing off the character played Segal, then a major Hollywood star.[7]

Steven Seagal earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance in the film but lost to Marlon Brando for The Island of Dr. Moreau.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Executive Decision". The Numbers. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  2. ^ "Executive Decision (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  3. ^ "Executive Decision". Metacritic.
  4. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  5. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780698183612.
  6. ^ Klady, Leonard (1996-03-10). "Review: Auds Likely to Decide in Favor of 'Executive'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (1996-03-15). "Executive Decision". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  8. ^ Wilson, John. "1996 Razzie Awards". Golden Raspberry Awards. Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2014-09-27.

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