Executive Decision

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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]

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.


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. Shortly after, Oceanic Airlines Flight 343 leaves Athens, Greece, bound for Washington, with U.S. Senator Mavros onboard. 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 United States Naval Academy graduate, is a consultant for the U.S. Army's intelligence community. While attending a black-tie ball, he is interrupted and summoned to a meeting at the Pentagon to plan an operation to retake the plane. As Colonel Travis' Chechen raid was based on Grant's intelligence, this causes friction between the two. After listening to Hassan's demands, Grant disbelieves that Hassan wants Jaffa released. Instead, he thinks Hassan 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 successfully docks with the 747, but the mid-air boarding is only partially successful: Cappy is seriously injured in the tunnel with a skull fracture due to turbulence, and Grant boards the plane to assist. The Oceanic Airlines 747 pulls up to try and escape the turbulence, putting too much stress on the sleeve. Unable to board before the docking tunnel decompresses, Travis sacrifices himself by closing the 747's hatch before the stealth craft is torn off and crashes. The survivors enter the 747's lower deck, but with only 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.

U.S. officials release Jaffa to try and resolve the situation. Meanwhile, the team locates the bomb, and despite his injuries Cappy guides Cahill in disarming it. Once satisfied that the bomb is secured, the remaining team readies to take control of the aircraft, but are called off when Cappy discovers that the bomb's arming device has an additional, remote-controlled trigger. Jaffa calls Hassan from a private jet, telling him he is free and 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, which means that one of the passengers is a sleeper agent and the trigger man for the bomb. Hassan also shoots one of his own men dead after he rebukes him.

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. Meanwhile, 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, and request an extra ten minutes despite already crossing into US airspace.

Grant enters the passenger cabin with Jean to try and 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. Hassan attempts to fire at Grant, but is shot by an onboard federal air marshal, and the commandos storm the cabin as a firefight ensues. Stray bullets break passenger windows, causing explosive decompression which blows several passengers and Demou out of the plane. The subordinate terrorists are killed during the exchange, and the bomb is disarmed, as the plane regains stable flight at a lower altitude. In a last act of desperation, a seriously wounded Hassan shoots at the cockpit and surrounding area (killing both pilots and damaging the controls, hoping the plane will crash) before being shot and killed.

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. As the plane begins to climb, Grant recognizes the area surrounding Frederick Field, where he normally practices flying. Deciding to land the 747 there, with Jean's assistance Grant makes a sloppy but safe landing into a sand berm at the runway's overrun area, where emergency workers are able to safely evacuate the passengers.

The film concludes with Grant being saluted by the team for his leadership. He is then summoned by the Pentagon and invites Jean to accompany him.



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] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[3]

Leonard Maltin called it "a tense, inventive thriller" which needed more editing.[4] 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."[5] Roger Ebert rated it 3/4 stars, calling it "a gloriously goofy mess of a movie".[6]

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.[7]


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

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