Wanna know something weird? Whenever I am in a plane that is landing I pretend that I am Kurt Russell at the end of this movie.
I remember opening night for Executive Decision in the UK - Friday, May 10th, 1996. I was there in a packed theatre and I remember everyone holding their breath as the pressure blew between the stealth bomber and the 747 with Steven Seagal stuck in the docking collar. There was a strange silence as everyone took a minute to get their heads around that fact that the supposed hero of the movie just died. You could really feel the shock and it was a moment that has stayed with me, as well as not likely to be a moment I'll ever experience again thanks to the internet exposing every idiosyncrasy of a movie's production long before opening night.
Executive Decision has long been a favorite. With a strong plot and an intense, nail-biting disaster scenario there is more than enough suspense to fill the 135 minute running time. Jerry Goldsmith's score has long been regarded as one of his weaker, auto-pilot efforts (pun intended) but I've always appreciated it though I can understand where a lot of the criticism comes from.
Goldsmith works best when given lots of overblown action to score. There are only a few moments of high action in Executive Decision (the aforementioned "All Aboard" scene being the standout) with the rest of the movie taking place in dark, claustrophobic sets such as airplane attics, closets, and cargo holds. The dialogue is delivered in whispers and the score lingers in a sinister place beyond sight, skulking and plotting on its own. We also get a very whistle-able main theme that is used frequently throughout but never gets boring or repetitive.
Perhaps critics thought that such low-key material was beneath Goldsmith's talents and that a lesser composer should have been given the gig, but I disagree. Goldsmith meshes the familiar brass of the US military with the sound of evil Arabic sitars, giving us a simplified acoustic association for our heroes and villains, though as I have said, this is not a movie where going over-the-top with themes and motifs would have been appropriate.
I play this album quite a lot and the Deluxe Edition is a massive improvement on the original 1996 Varese disc. I'd like this score to get a bit more recognition but fans seem to be too obsessed over Goldsmith's more aggressive and up-beat gigs over the course of his career, particularly his 90s work, and Executive Decision often gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile.
Just play "All Aboard" at full volume whenever you get the chance.