Executive Decision

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This article is about the film. For the Bad Azz album, see Executive Decision (album).
Executive Decision
Executive decision ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stuart Baird
Produced by Joel Silver
Written by
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Edited by
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • March 15, 1996 (1996-03-15)
Running time
133 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million[1]
Box office $122.1 million[1]

Executive Decision is a 1996 American disaster action film directed by Stuart Baird in his directorial debut. The film stars Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt and John Leguizamo. The film was released in the United States on March 15, 1996.


Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis leads an unsuccessful raid on a Chechen mafia safe house in Italy by a U.S. Army Special Forces team to recover a stolen Soviet nerve agent, DZ-5. One of his men is killed during the raid.

Dr. David Grant, a United States Naval Academy graduate and now a consultant for the U.S. Army's intelligence community, is informed that the world's most feared terrorist, El Sayed Jaffa, has been taken into custody. Shortly after, Oceanic Airlines Flight 343, a Boeing 747-200, leaves Athens, Greece, bound for Washington, D.C on board is a U.S. Senator, Mavros. It is hijacked by Jaffa's lieutenant, Nagi Hassan and a number of Jaffa's men.

Grant is summoned to the Pentagon to join a team led by Travis which is being readied to intercept the hijacked plane. They listen to Hassan's demand for the release of Jaffa. Grant, however, does not believe Hassan wants Jaffa released. He believes that Hassan actually arranged for Jaffa's capture, that the hijacked plane is carrying a bomb loaded with DZ-5 nerve gas and that Hassan wants to detonate the bomb over U.S. airspace.

A plan is worked out that will involve a mid-air transfer of a special operations team onto the hijacked airliner using an experimental F-117 stealth aircraft. The plan is approved and Travis assembles his team at a U.S Air Force base. They board with Grant and ARPA engineer Dennis Cahill.

The boarding is only partially successful. When an operator, "Cappy", is seriously injured, Grant, who was supposed to stay put, boards to help lift Cappy into the plane. The 747 pulls up, though, putting too much stress on the boarding sleeve. Unable to board the plane, Travis sacrifices himself when he closes the 747's hatch, just as the sleeve breaks and he is blown from the F-117 into open air. Those who survived insertion make it to the 747's lower deck, but with half their equipment and no communication. It is assumed back at the Pentagon that the team did not make it aboard.

With limited options, the operators begin to search for the supposed DZ-5 bomb. Grant manages to make contact with a flight attendant, Jean, despite Hassan's suspicions and asks her for assistance in finding the bomb's remote detonator.

Officials decide to release Jaffa in order to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, Cappy and Cahill locate and start to dismantle the bomb. They discover that the bomb's arming device is barometrically activated. They seemingly disarm the bomb, but it is revealed that there is another trigger.

Jaffa calls Hassan from a private jet, telling him he is free, but Hassan will not be swayed from his plan. Grant realizes that Hassan's men don't know about the bomb, which means there is a sleeper on board, one passenger among 400.

U.S. Senator Mavros is called away from his seat to have a word with the President of the United States only to realize he's to be sacrificed as a warning that Hassan is serious. Hassan points a gun to Mavros' head as he tries in vain to get the President to listen, but is shot in the head. However, Jean spots a man with an electronic device and informs Grant. Meanwhile, the soldiers manage to use the plane's taillights and Morse code signal to the U.S. Navy fighter jets that they are on board and not to shoot them down.

Grant and Jean enter the passenger cabin and take the suspected individual by surprise, but what Jean thought was an electronic device was merely a case of diamonds. However, Grant spots the real sleeper: Jean-Paul Demou, the man who built the bomb. Hassan attempts to fire at Grant, but is shot from behind by the on-board federal air marshal. The operators kill the lights, make entry, and storm the cabin where a firefight ensues. Stray bullets strike and break passenger windows wide open, causing explosive decompression which blows three passengers and Demou out of the plane. The remaining terrorists are killed during the exchange, the bomb is finally disarmed, and the plane is able to regain its stability. In a last act of desperation, a seriously wounded Hassan kills both pilots, hoping the bomb will detonate if the plane crashes. Hassan is killed by wounded operator "Rat".

Grant is then forced to assume control of the plane and attempt to land the 747 at Washington Dulles International Airport despite his limited piloting experience. He attempts to land at Dulles, but is flying too high by the time he reaches the runway and misses the approach, forcing him to pull the plane back up to circle around and try again. As the plane begins to climb, Grant visually recognizes the area surrounding Frederick Field, which is where he normally practices flying. Deciding to try and land the 747 there, with Jean's assistance, Grant makes a sloppy but safe landing as he's unable to stop before reaching the end of the airport's relatively short runway. The 747 is slowed to a stop by ramming into a sand berm at the runway's overrun area where emergency workers are able to safely evacuate the remaining passengers.



Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 63% of 38 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 6/10.[2] Leonard Maltin called it "a tense, inventive thriller" which needed more editing.[3] 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."[4] Roger Ebert rated it 3/4 stars and called it "a gloriously goofy mess of a movie".[5]

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.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Executive Decision". The Numbers. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  2. ^ "Executive Decision (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  3. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780698183612. 
  4. ^ Klady, Leonard (1996-03-10). "Review: Auds Likely to Decide in Favor of 'Executive'". Variety. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (1996-03-15). "Executive Decision". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  6. ^ Wilson, John. "1996 Razzie Awards". Golden Raspberry Awards. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 

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