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Executive Decision, Austin Travis (Steven Seagal)

Site Rating: 85%
(ratings: 6)
Writeup Rating: 95%
(ratings: 4)
Film: Executive Decision (1996)
Deceased Character: Austin Travis (Steven Seagal)
Archetype: Goody (Major)

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'Self-Sacrifice' icon 'Falling' icon 'Pressure' icon 'Golden Duck' icon
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Written by Old Bluffer 13th Nov 2006

The plot of Executive Decision involves a hijacked passenger plane carrying enough DZ5 nerve agent to "wipe out half the Eastern seaboard".
It is headed straight for Washington DC and is of course filled with various interesting characters, meaning that the Americans need to make a token rescue attempt before blowing it out of the sky.

From the opening scene, Austin Travis is shown to be an archetypal, flint eyed, knife wielding, US military hero - in other words, he is pretty much the same character Steven Seagal plays in all of his films.
Just in case the sight of Travis gunning down terrorists and rescuing hostages at the beginning of the film isn't clear enough though, we have senior military staff expounding on his sheer studliness with lines like:

"I know you wrote the book on assaulting hijacked aircraft!"

The only problem is that Travis is normally used to attacking planes that have already landed, but this clearly isn't an option in this case.

Cut to a modified Stealth Fighter, with an amusing telescopic tunnel contraption fitted by a Boffin. This device, known as a remora, defies the laws of aerodynamics by attaching itself to the underside of a plane, allowing Seagal's hand picked squad to board the craft unseen.

A special mention should be given to this squad, as Travis clearly believes in ethnic diversity in the workplace - he has an Asian, an African American, a typical Caucasian jarhead and a Latino. Kurt Russell is also on board as a civillian expert on the terrorist responsible (he is also shown at the start of the film taking flying lessons, so it is 100% certain he will have to land the 747 at the end of the movie).

This politically correct force soon docks with the hijacked plane, and starts to crawl up through the tunnel.
Turbulence strikes at the worst possible moment though, and during the chaos, the pressure seal begins to fail, with Travis not yet with his squad.

Kurt Russell (who has of course contrived to go up the shaft, even though he was supposed to stay on the stealth jet) tells Travis "We're not going to make it!"

"You are" says Travis, and he does the only thing he can, closing the hatch with himself on the wrong side.
Cut to Steven Seagal's body being swept out at 30,000 feet without a parachute.

Yes, you read that correctly, Steven Seagal dies. And it's not even at the climax of the movie, it happens halfway through!

Anyone who is a fan of the Action Movie genre will know what an unprecedented death this is, especially as Seagal was presented with all the usual cliches that telegraph that he will be the film's hero.
For that reason, I've rated this death quite highly, simply for the sheer surprise factor.

IMDB report that Seagal objected to his character dying, on the grounds that "his fans wouldn't like it" and only consented when threatened with breach of contract. If this is true, then it makes the death even more amusing!

4 categories : Self-Sacrifice, Falling, Pressure, Golden Duck

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Other Death Reviews for Executive Decision (1996)

Austin Travis (Steven Seagal)

Last Updated: 27th Oct 2009
Number of views for this review since 30th May 2008: 20851
This review has 9 comments. Reply to the comments
Comment 1 by 'RolandDeschain' (reply to this comment)
Nice one, I'd totally forgot this happened - and like you said, the surprise factor makes it a memorable (and justly high rated) death. smiling smiley
Comment 2 by 'Matt' (reply to this comment)
Damn. I was planning to submit this!

Two points...
- He dies 41 mins into the picture, according to my PAL DVD. (I love this death religiously)
- Ironic needs to be added. Earlier, Travis asks Grant, "who the hell else wants to do it? You?" Which is just what happens.
Comment 3 by 'old bluffer' (reply to this comment)
Damn. I was planning to submit this!
Sorry, it was on TV last night and I got sucked into watching it, to see if I was right about Seagal dying. Once he died I started typing up the death whilst watching the rest of the film!
The film isn't actually that bad either. It picked up on a very important pre 9/11 idea, that hijackers may not actually want to land a plane.
Also, the cast was pretty good. I spotted Liz's mother from Roswell High, the old git of a doctor from Scrubs and of course Hercule Poirot playing the main baddie smiling smiley.
I cannot believe Halle Berry held out for a $1,000,000 payout for her role though - she does virtually nothing!
- He dies 41 mins into the picture, according to my PAL DVD. (I love this death religiously)
Well I watched the UK version on Sky, which probably has 20 minutes of knife fighting cut winking smiley. I will update the review though.
- Ironic needs to be added. Earlier, Travis asks Grant, "who the hell else wants to do it? You?" Which is just what happens.
Nice try, but it's not all that ironic really I'm afraid! I have to keep going into the "Ironic" category and culling it, as reviewers are far too keen to apply it in my opinion!
Comment 4 by 'Matt' (reply to this comment)
But here Irony definetly seems to apply.

I have the DVD, so I would take grabs, but my DVD drive refuses to open anymore.

Sky's version is probably the same as the UK release (which I have). It has 7s of knife fighting cut for the '15' rating (did you know Seagal's first 8 films were cut in some way in the UK? (Under Siege 2 particularly)) and scenes where David Suchet is seen praying cut out (Warners did this themselves, rather the BBFC.)
Comment 5 by 'Matt' (reply to this comment)
Where's Pressure? His demise was a result of depressurisation.
Comment 6 by 'old bluffer' (reply to this comment)
Where's Pressure? His demise was a result of depressurisation.
I'm not convinced Pressure applies. I agree the depressurisation assisted him being swept outside, but that by itself shouldn't qualify. As an example, if someone used a suction cup to pull someone into the path of an oncoming bus, Pressure wouldn't apply either.
Comment 7 by 'Matt' (reply to this comment)
It is, however, a pivotal part of the scene. May not have directly caused his death, but it played a large role.
Comment 8 by 'old bluffer' (reply to this comment)
As a point of interest, what would happen to a healthy person if they were suddenly put into freefall at 30,000 feet? Would they fall far enough and fast enough in order to avoid death by asphyxiation (hypoxia)? I suspect they would, but am not sure so I did some research...

I found the following helpful page which is interesting reading: Would-you-be-conscious-if-you-fell-from-a-plane
The conclusion was that the hypoxia of such a descent would not necessarily totally incapacitate a person. However, in a true free fall the 100 mph + windspeed would freeze the faller very rapidly, to the point where that might cause loss of consciousness.
Comment 9 by 'Matt' (reply to this comment)
Just a slight correction needed: Travis simply says "You are!"