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Air Force One
Album Cover Art
1997 Varèse
1998 Randy Newman Bootleg
Album 2 Cover Art
1999 Bootleg (Sample Cover)
Album 3 Cover Art
2019 Varèse
Album 4 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Additional Music Composed by:
Joel McNeely

Orchestrated by:
Alexander Courage

Rejected Score by:
Randy Newman
Labels Icon
Varèse Sarabande
(July 11th, 1997)

Newman Bootleg

Complete Score Bootleg

Varèse Sarabande
(September 27th, 2019)
Availability Icon
The 1997 Varèse Sarabande album is a regular U.S. release. The release of the Randy Newman material shortly thereafter was originally done in promotional form, but bootlegs quickly resulted. The complete recordings of the Goldsmith/McNeely score only existed in bootleg form for years, circulating on the secondary market since 1999. The 2019 Varèse CD album is limited to 4,000 copies and available initially for $30 through soundtrack specialty outlets, though digital options were offered for $20.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on only the limited 2019 Varèse Sarabande set for an appropriate presentation of Jerry Goldsmith and Joel McNeely's somewhat redundant but occasionally engaging, patriotic action score.

Avoid it... on any other album representing music from the film, the prior Varèse product woefully incomplete, the bootlegs inferior in quality, and Randy Newman's rejected score highly overrated.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 7/28/97, REVISED 2/19/21
Air Force One: (Jerry Goldsmith/Joel McNeely/Randy Newman) There was a period in Hollywood when depictions of the president of the United States on the big screen showed men younger and skilled with weaponry, and perhaps the most ridiculous overreach of these fantasies came with Wolfgang Peterson's shamelessly patriotic Air Force One in 1997. The summer blockbuster gave audiences Harrison Ford as the leader of the free world, Glenn Close as his vice president, and Gary Oldman as the sinister Russian-aligned rebel who hijacks Air Force One on a return trip from Moscow with some improbable inside help from a troublesome secret service agent. The plot is relatively simple, the plane itself receiving more than its due share of glory, and the film cruised to lofty earnings and high approval from actual then-President Bill Clinton. Like many intentionally over-the-top action scenarios, Air Force One requires the suspension of logical thought from start to finish, and in an effort to accomplish some semblance of believability, a dead serious action score is mandatory. Unfortunately for the director, his employment of composer Randy Newman for the assignment was a woeful mistake. Newman was indeed revered for his ability to capture the essence of "Americana" in his scores, from The Natural and Avalon through Pleasantville and beyond. But his reputation had been built and maintained in the realm of his children's film scoring and the lighter drama genres, with the success of Toy Story and Newman's plethora of quirky and jazzy songs defining his career. It should have come as no surprise to Peterson that Newman would write a somewhat silly, mocking score for Air Force One; he had never tackled an action film of this blockbuster size before, and he obviously looked at the genre with a sense of amusement rather than one of serious intent. Newman's score still managed to offer a significant amount of viable action material in parts, using the logical choices of brass and snare to lead his fully orchestral ensemble over a few lightly synthesized effects. But these action cues fell into the trap of comedy action writing more akin to 1980's Elmer Bernstein music, attempting to move from motif to motif, rhythm to rhythm far too quickly for the accompanying scene to receive the sense of gravity it required.

Randy Newman's action music for Air Force One makes for an interesting listening experience apart from the film, and, surprisingly, it has been highly praised through the years. Composer Hans Zimmer once indicated that he considered these cues superior to any he had written at the time. Several distinct sequences seemingly inspired Basil Poledouris in his forthcoming score for Starship Troopers. Film music critics awarded significant praise to Newman's score when it was leaked almost immediately as a bootleg CD to the collecting community. But there are significant weaknesses in Newman's score outside of a handful of the more consistent action cues. His themes, simply put, are atrocious for the genre. His concoction for the president includes a rollicking rhythm and jovial fanfare that places the film just one step away from your local carnival. Used in full during the early motorcade and hostage-freeing scenes, this theme would have been horrifyingly trivial in its futile attempts to infuse any sense of sincerity into the office of the president or his plane. In both structure and frivolous character, the theme mirrors the identity of David Newman's Galaxy Quest to a substantial degree. Equally dumb in a mock fashion is Randy Newman's theme for the Russians and their general, nearing the realm of parody in its prancing movements. His theme for the first family is adequate though inconsequential. On the whole, his score is embarrassingly inappropriate in tone, despite the quality of a few individual action cues. Newman recorded an hour of material for the film before getting cut off by Peterson, who, with the release date of the film fast approaching, must have been experiencing a serious case of butt-puckering upon hearing Newman's recordings. There is no indication that Newman recorded music for either the opening credits or the final fifteen minutes of the film and end credits. With only twelve days in which to record a replacement score, action veteran Jerry Goldsmith pledged to make an attempt to save Peterson's film. Knowing that he couldn't accomplish the task alone, Goldsmith initially asked his son, Joel, to assist him in providing some of the music. Being unavailable, Goldsmith turned to rising composer Joel McNeely for assistance, and he received superior results. McNeely was tantalizingly close to mainstream break-out at the time, and he was more than capable and willing to closely follow Goldsmith's lead in providing music for the scenes that the veteran declined to tackle himself.

After the rushed insanity of writing and recording Air Force One, Goldsmith claimed that he would never again attempt such a last-minute effort. And yet, by almost all accounts, the work that he and McNeely provided for Air Force One is exactly what Peterson was looking for. Despite its effectiveness, though, Goldsmith's no-nonsense action style is derivative of his other works; originality wasn't a luxury afforded by time. He wrote all of the themes and motifs for the film and passed them on for McNeely to interpret as necessary for certain cues. The three concepts for which Goldsmith wrote themes mirrored the choices made by Newman, but they're executed in a far more conventional way. The main theme is a somewhat transparent re-working of the primary theme for Star Trek: First Contact from six months prior, replacing the stark nobility of the earlier theme with a touch of Rambo: First Blood Part II instrumentation in a more patriotic slant. Its blatantly heroic statements are the polar opposite of Newman's leading theme in attitude and distinction, and while they may be slightly obnoxious in their unflappable patriotism, they match the flamboyant displays in the film quite well. Goldsmith would have been horrified to know that this theme eventually became a common anthem for stage arrivals of American Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Donald J. Trump, the latter using this theme for rally entries through the end of his term. Also owing a page to Star Trek: First Contact is the construct of the softer, somewhat anonymous woodwind-based family theme heard most prominently in "No Security" and in a few of the resolution moments later on. The Russians are given two motifs that eventually blend into one spectacular moment of General Radek's death near the end of the film, and these ideas are arguably the highlight of Air Force One for veteran Goldsmith collectors. First introduced in the latter half of "The Parachutes," this material evolves into a grim snare march under stereotypically rigid Russian progressions for low strings and brass in the film's latter half. Goldsmith rarely wrote for Russian settings, with the only other memorable use late in his career coming in The Sum of All Fears, but McNeely on the other hand provided a lavish, heavily choral Russian piece for the little know film Virus not long after Air Force One, leading some to incorrectly believe that McNeely was the original source of this music in Air Force One. The idea, however, was indeed Goldsmith's, even though McNeely did interpolate the material at times.

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.64 Stars
***** 1,042 5 Stars
**** 1,375 4 Stars
*** 1,087 3 Stars
** 418 2 Stars
* 196 1 Stars
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Before you overspend on the Deluxe Edition CD...
Drew C. - May 1, 2021, at 3:06 p.m.
1 comment  (101 views)
Donald Trump ♥ Jerry Goldsmith
Ken Kirchner - July 21, 2016, at 7:28 p.m.
1 comment  (956 views)
A Highly Underrated Score
Rebecca - June 28, 2011, at 3:33 p.m.
1 comment  (1812 views)
Radek's Death.mp3   Expand >>
Quentin - August 16, 2007, at 11:31 a.m.
3 comments  (6072 views)
Newest: November 27, 2007, at 11:10 a.m. by
what is the name of the song   Expand >>
Brian - April 26, 2005, at 8:02 p.m.
3 comments  (10825 views)
Newest: December 27, 2005, at 9:40 a.m. by
Lord Tau
anyone have the complete score???   Expand >>
chris barry - March 10, 2005, at 11:22 p.m.
3 comments  (5356 views)
Newest: November 27, 2007, at 8:38 a.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1997 Varèse Sarabande Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 35:40
• 1. The Parachutes (5:14)
• 2. The Motorcade (2:40)
• 3. Empty Rooms (4:02)
• 4. The Hijacking (7:30)
• 5. No Security (2:59)
• 6. Free Flight (4:41)
• 7. Escape from Air Force One (5:25)
• 8. Welcome Aboard, Sir (2:06)
Randy Newman Bootlegs Tracks   ▼Total Time: 59:29
Complete Goldsmith/McNeely Bootlegs Tracks   ▼Total Time: 102:14
2019 Varèse Sarabande Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 120:24

Notes Icon
The inserts of the 1997 Varèse Sarabande and bootleg albums include no extra information about the film or scores. That of the 2020 Varèse album includes detailed notes about both.
Copyright © 1997-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Air Force One are Copyright © 1997, 2019, Varèse Sarabande, Newman Bootleg, Complete Score Bootleg, Varèse Sarabande and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/28/97 and last updated 2/19/21.
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