Executive Decision

Executive Decision Information

Executive Decision, (also known as Critical Decision) is a 1996 action thriller, directed by Stuart Baird and starring Kurt Russell, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo and Steven Seagal. The original music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The film was released in the United States on March 15, 1996.


Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) leads an unsuccessful raid on a Chechen mafia safehouse 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 (Kurt Russell), 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 (Andreas Katsulas), has been taken into custody. Shortly after, Oceanic Airlines Flight 343, a Boeing 747-200, leaves Athens, Greece bound for Washington, D.C. It is hijacked by Jaffa's Lieutenant, Nagi Hassan (David Suchet) 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 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 Remora aircraft. The plan is approved and Travis assembles his team at a U.S Air Force base. They board with Grant and engineer Dennis Cahill (Oliver Platt).

The boarding is only partially successful. When an operator, "Cappy" (Joe Morton), 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 sucked 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 (Halle Berry), 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 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 Jason Mavros (J.T. Walsh) 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.

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. 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 sucking 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" (John Leguizamo).

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, but is 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.


  • Kurt Russell as Dr. David Grant
  • Steven Seagal as Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis
  • John Leguizamo as Master Sergeant Carlos "Rat" Lopez
  • David Suchet as Nagi Hassan
  • Halle Berry as Jean
  • Oliver Platt as Dennis Cahill
  • Joe Morton as Sergeant First Class Campbell "Cappy" Matheny
  • B. D. Wong as Sergeant First Class Louie Jung
  • Whip Hubley as Sergeant First Class Michael Baker
  • Marla Maples Trump as Flight Attendant Nancy
  • J. T. Walsh as Senator Mavros
  • Charles Hallahan as Lieutenant General Sarlow
  • Richard Riehle as Air Marshal George Edwards
  • Andreas Katsulas as El Sayed Jaffa
  • Jay Tavare as Nabill
  • Ray Baker as 747 Captain



Originally developed at Paramount, the studio put the project in turnaround and sold to Warner Bros. in exchange for the rights and screenplay to Forrest Gump. Executive Decision was considered a hot project while Forrest Gump was going through multiple problems with the script and casting.


The film received full cooperation from The Pentagon. One alteration to the screenplay was the removal of the President of the United States (he is said to be out of the country and does not appear on screen); his part in the story was taken by the Secretary of Defense played by Len Cariou.

The film's plot device of a stealth fighter linking to a civilian airliner had its roots in a F-117 field test, conducted by the famous Skunk Works. In the test, a "red-eye" transcontinental flight was picked at random by Skunk Work engineers. An F-117 "Have Blue" fighter then flew just below and behind the selected airliner. Engineers watched radar screens for the airliner's reaction. If the airliner deviated from its flight path, the engineers would assume that its anti-collision radar system had detected the stealth fighter. According to the story, the unknowing airliner stayed on its preset flight path. After nearly an hour the invisible fighter plane veered off and returned to its test site.


Steven Seagal had a fairly minor role in the film, and his character was killed early on, despite being one of the more well-known of the actors to appear in the film, and a major action star at the time. Furthermore, Seagal is not cited in the opening credits, but Seagal's image was used heavily in advertising for the movie due to his popularity with movie goers.

Aircraft props

Oceanic Airlines is a fictional airline often used in action movies and TV series involving ill-fated airplanes. Some scenes from this film were used in other films and TV series.

The external shots of the Oceanic Airlines 747 depicts the 747-200 version of the aircraft, yet all the cockpit scenes in the movie feature the much more modern glass cockpit of the newer 747-400 which has a longer upper deck than the -200 model as well.

The particular 747-121 aircraft featured in this film was actually involved in a real-life terrorist incident. On August 11, 1982, while operating under the registry N754PA for its original owner Pan Am and nicknamed "Clipper Ocean Rover," it was assigned to fly from Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan to Honolulu International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii as Flight 830. About 140 miles from Hawaii, a bomb under a seat cushion exploded killing 16-year-old Japanese student Toru Ozawa and injuring 15 others (including the boy's parents). The plane managed to make a safe landing in Honolulu and was eventually placed back into service with Pan Am. The plane was later sold and passed through several owners before being used in the film.

Kurt Russell is shown in an opening scene piloting a Beechcraft Bonanza. Kurt Russell was actually flying the airplane and it is seen making an approach into Chino, California. The scene is spliced into a ramp scene from Van Nuys airport, with Van Nuys standing in for Maryland.

The scene involving the F-14 interception was the last film appearance of Squadron VF-84 before being disestablished.


This film is also known under the name Critical Decision, for the Dutch/Belgian market; Ratkaisun Hetket (The Moments of Decision) for Finland; Ultime Decision, for France; Décision au sommet, for French Canadian; the German title was Einsame Entscheidung and Final Decision in South Korea, Krytyczna decyzja in Poland and Boeing 747 v ohro?ení (Boeing 747 in Danger) in Czech Republic.


Executive Decision received mixed but mostly positive reviews from critics, and currently holds a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 39 reviews. Leonard Maltin called it "A standard, but enjoyable action thriller, that somewhat falls apart towards the end, but still worth the trip." Steven Seagal earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, but lost against Marlon Brando for The Island of Dr. Moreau. Many in Hollywood felt that Warner Bros. got the worse end of the deal that exchanged this film with "Forrest Gump" from Paramount. Though it was considered a box-office success, "Forrest Gump" earned far more money and garnered lasting critical acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations and wins.

Box office

  • United States gross takings: US$56,569,216
  • International takings: $65.4 million
  • Gross worldwide takings: $121,969,216

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Executive_Decision" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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