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, learns that terrorist El Sayed Jaffa has been arrested. Shortly after, Oceanic Airlines Flight 343 leaves Athens, Greece, bound for Washington, D.C, with U.S. Senator Mavros. Jaffa's lieutenant, Nagi Hassan, and his men hijack it.

Grant joins a team led by Travis to intercept the plane. After listening to Hassan's demands, Grant disbelieves Hassan wants Jaffa released and instead thinks Hassan engineered Jaffa's capture and plans to use the plane to detonate a bomb loaded with nerve gas over U.S. airspace. The Pentagon authorizes a mid-air transfer of a special operations team onto the hijacked airliner using experimental stealth aircraft. Grant and ARPA engineer Dennis Cahill observe.

The boarding is only partially successful. When an operator, "Cappy", is seriously injured, Grant boards to assist Cappy. The 747 pulls up, though, putting too much stress on the boarding sleeve. Unable to board, Travis sacrifices himself when he closes the 747's hatch. The survivors enter the 747's lower deck, but with half their equipment and no communication. The Pentagon assumes the team failed to board. With limited options, the operators search for the supposed bomb. Grant makes contact with a flight attendant, Jean, despite Hassan's suspicions and recruits her.

Officials release Jaffa to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, Cappy and Cahill locate and begin dismantling the bomb. They discover the bomb's arming device is barometrically activated. They seemingly disarm the bomb, but another trigger is revealed. Jaffa calls Hassan from a private jet, telling him he is free, but Hassan will not be swayed from his plan. Grant realizes Hassan's men don't know about the bomb, which means one of the passengers is a sleeper.

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. Hassan points a gun to Mavros' head as he tries in vain to get the President to listen, but is shot in the head. Jean spots a man with an electronic device and informs Grant. Meanwhile, the soldiers use the plane's taillights via Morse code to signal 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, 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 regains its stability. In a last act of desperation, a seriously wounded Hassan kills both pilots, hoping the bomb will detonate if the plane crashes. Wounded operator "Rat" kills Hassan.

Grant is forced to assume control of the plane and attempt to land the 747 at Washington Dulles International Airport despite his limited piloting experience. He 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 land the 747 there, with Jean's assistance, Grant makes a sloppy but safe landing. 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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