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Executive decision poster
Executive Decision theatrical poster
Written by Jim Thomas
John Thomas
Directed by Stuart Baird
Produced by Joel Silver
Starring Kurt Russell
Steven Seagal
Halle Berry
John Leguizamo
Oliver Platt
Joe Morton
David Suchet
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography by Alex Thomson
Editing by Frank J. Urioste
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release Date March 15, 1996
Rated R
Run time 134 mins.
Budget $60,000,000
Grossed $121,969,216

Executive Decision is a 1996 action thriller. It was released on March 15, 1996. The film was directed by Stuart Baird and written by Jim Thomas & John Thomas.

In this movie, when a transatlantic passenger airliner is hijacked by terrorists, led by Nagi Hassan (David Suchet), Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell) a consultant for the U.S. Army's intelligence community, is sent to help the U.S. Special Forces team, led by Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal), to prevent the plane from entering the United States since it contains a DZ-5 bomb. When the boarding of the plane is partially successful and Travis sacrifices himself to save the others, Grant and the team must carefully plan to foil the terrorist plot and save the hostages on board the plane.


Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis 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, 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. 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 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.

The boarding is only partially successful. When one soldier, "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 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 soldiers 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 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 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 soldiers 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 soldier "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, 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.

Cast and characters[]

Civilians/Special Forces team[]

For a list of unnamed military personnel, see here.


For a list of unnamed terrorists, see here.

Passengers/Flight crew[]

  • Halle Berry as Flight Attendant Jean
  • J. T. Walsh as Senator Mavros
  • Mary Ellen Trainor as Flight Attendant Allison
  • Marla Maples as Flight Attendant Nancy
  • Richard Riehle as Air Marshal George Edwards
  • Ray Baker as 747 Captain
  • Michael Milhoan as 747 First Officer

For a list of unnamed flight occupants, see here.

U.S. Government[]

  • Len Cariou as Secretary of Defense Charles White
  • Ken Jenkins as General Wood
  • Charles Hallahan as Lieutenant General Sarlow
  • Tim Kelleher as Bulldog

For a list of unnamed gov't personnel, see here.


  • Michelle Boudreau as Michelle Thomas
  • Juan Fernández as London Bomber
  • Nick Jameson as London Maitre d'
  • John Rixey Moore as Dr. Grant's Flight Instructor
  • Dey Young as Gail

Further Notes[]

Many fans compare this film with Passenger 57 and Air Force One being inevitable due to its similar settings and themes, and while Air Force One is the better known example of a "Die Hard on a plane" flick, this movie actually predates that by one year and involves multiple heroes unlike the "one-man" army theme.

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