It was about 10pm on a slow Friday night, nothing much on TV except the usual rubbish: Friends re-runs, over the top game shows and reality TV – which isn’t so much reality as you would think, but more the rejected storylines from poorly written soap operas. Then suddenly out of the blue, like a present from God himself, I just happened to stumble upon a film called How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Immediately I was drawn to it as I knew It was a play on the title of Dale Carnegie very successful book, How To Win Friends and in Influence People.
So, I was expecting something extremely funny and entertaining, and because I had read the Carnegie book, I knew I’d be able to pick up on all the inside jokes. THEN upon pressing the Information button on the sky remote, I was beyond delighted to find out that Simon Pegg was playing the lead; coupled with my amazingly prepared steak, salad and jacket potatoes, sitting on my lap calling my name – (thanks, mum!) I knew for certain, life couldn’t get any better!
But 20 minutes in I realized the film SUCKED, and Megan Fox proved that we do truly live in superficial society, and we are doomed as a human race. Because no way could she get in the movie-making business based on pure talent alone.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a tirade on how terrible this film was, or the suckkyness of Megan Fox, the reason I wrote this piece is because of one scene, in particular, one glorious scene. Almost good enough to salvage the film, almost. So here is what happened. It’s set in an elevator and features Simon Pegg’s character turning to a film snob and asking him what the greatest film of all time was. At first, the guy is stumped and didn’t have an answer straight away. However, he eventually utters the film title La Doce Vita, a masterpiece of a film by Federico Fellini – rightly so. But then Simon says, WRONG! And, in truth the actual answer was, in fact, Con Air, “you’ve got Malkovich for the acting chops, you got Nicky cage for your action, Steve Buscemi for your comedy, John Cusack for the gays, Right?”
So, with that said, I feel that I have to completely agree with the above statements, except for last one, of course, because I’m a straight guy who loves a bit of the Cusack – I mean, who doesn’t? Just remembering him with the boom box held over his head, outside the widow of Diane Court (Ione Skye) in Say Anything, still brings tears to my eyes. Cough* manly tears! Very, manly tears. And subsequently, after pondering Con Air’s cinematic merits some more, it finally, gloriously dawned on me – CON AIR IS THE GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME.
First things first, let me give you a synopsis – if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right! Okay, here we go: A once war hero, Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage), has been placed in jail for the better part of 8 years, leaving behind a daughter who wasn’t even born when he was sent away, and a wife (a sex wife, might I add). Wh was he jailed? Well, it’s not for the reasons you think, he’s a good man, and like I said, a hero. The story is simple, he killed a guy trying to save and protect his pregnant wife – see, he’s a hero!
Skip 8 years later, and he is soon to be a free man after being released. But, after missing his original flight, he is then forced to aboard a flight transporting ten of the most dangerous criminals in America to a new top of the range security facility. Criminals in the notorious ilk of Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich), a serial killer and diabolical mastermind. Cyprus would go on to hijack of the plane in the pursuit of escaping to freedom. Let’s just say ‘The Virus’ makes the journey for a bumpy ride for our hero, Poe. Don’t worry, I’ll stop here. I hate spoilers too. So, he’s the rest of the film in brief: after a lot of flying bullets, a lot of screaming and shouting, a lot of explosions and one dead body flying through the air, the rest of the film is a hair-raising roller coaster of thrills – THE END. See, no spoilers. Now, go watch the film – wait! I meant, after reading this article, of course!
The premise is pretty cool, right? Okay, sure, it’s no Inceptions and it isn’t exactly the most intelligent and sophisticated of storylines, but who wants to be sophisticated all the time? No one. Why? It gets boring. And as for the intelligent part, it makes your head hurt. Anway, so what if a five-year-old could have come up with the plot of Con Air in her sleep? That’s what makes it so good – simplicity. Some of the most beautiful things in life are often the most simple. Con Air beautiful. And who is the maestro behind this masterpiece – Jerry Bruckheimer, the guy who directed all the Pirates of the Caribbean, grossed more than $800 million worldwide, amassed 41 Academy Award nominations (six wins), eight Grammy Award nominations (five wins), 23 Golden Globe nominations (four wins) and 77 Emmy Award nominations (nine wins) – Yeah, that Bruckheimer.
Next, let’s look at the cast: the lead is played by Nicholas Cage, the very definition of your modern day action hero; almost the love child of Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Wills. Hold on, excuse me one second as I take a shot of vodka to get the image of Stallone and Wills having sex out of my mind. Cage was made to play Poe. First, he’s a massive movie star, AND he is the 29th highest grossing film actor of all time, making close to 2.2 billion dollars so far, a lot more than much hyped three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis.
Then we have John Malkovich as Cyrus Grissom providing the performance. Malkovich is SO GOOD, he even had a film named after him, which went on to be nominated for three Oscars no less! Malkovich is also an Emmy award-winning actor, who also has been nominated for a golden globe, an Oscar and a BAFTA for his role in ‘In the Line of Fire’. The man has acting chops in abundance.
We then have Dave Chappell, who in my opinion has completely underrated for his role as pinball. Who? Pinball! Remember? The bumbling fool who gets his body is lodged in the landing gear as the aircraft takes off…? Anyway, Chappell is a comedy genius. He was once the highest paid stand-up in America, and he’s stand up DVD released in 2005, was and still is the best-selling comedy TV series of all time, beating out other popular shows such as The Simpsons (the first season of which held the record beforehand). Chappell was also ranked as the forty-third in Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.So, the guy brings the laughs.
Cage, Malkovich and Chappel are just some of the standout cast members, I didn’t even have to include the like of Cusack, Buscemi and Rhames, who all bring something different to the film. But that’s the thing, there is so many it would take me aeons to write down justly why each is so damn awesome, there isn’t even enough paper in the world for me to do it.
Then we have the action… There are tones of it! Con Air is the stuff of wet dreams for about every teenage boy on earth – well post-Baywatch, and particularly post Pamela Anderson in that red bikini. One of these so-called thrilling action scenes occurs half-way through the film: burning and smouldering, the plane with all the convicts on has to land in Lerner Airfield, but they over-shoot the runway, sending them crashing into a sandbank – inches from a tank of propane. Taking this opportunity, good cop John Cusack (Oh, I forgot to tell you, Cusack is a double agent in the film – ops, did I spoil it for you? haha sucker.) with the help of the National Guard, is able to catch up with Malkovich and his pose before they are able to get air born again. With the criminals fighting for their freedom and the National Guard acting as the long arm of the law, a titanic shoot out ensues. But the action is so well coordinated and written, it soon becomes a beautifully assembled orchestra of violence, coupled with short snappy dialogue that plays out as poetry amongst flying dead bodies and exploding tanks. The scene is a work of art, and I would find it difficult to understand if anyone would see it any differently.
However, all this is just the starter, the main course occurs near the end of this orgasmic scene. So, the Virus and his cronies have gotten the plane airborne again, however, naively, they assumed the initial crash had killed off Poe (Cage) – WRONG. Poe returns with a vengeance is able to successfully and clandestinely disable the plane engine, making it impossible for the convicts to fly away safely. Instead, they are then forced to land on the Vegas strip. Most are killed, but a few survive and escape; Cyrus, Diamond Dog and Swamp. Poe chases them down, leading to the three convicts deaths; Jones being hit by a motorbike, Swamp Thing hurtling through the windshield and being run over, and Cyrus crushed by a pounder in a construction site – bad ass right! Sorry for all the spoilers – I couldn’t resist, Con Air just gets me way over excited.
As you can probably agree now Con Air is awesome, and you would be right for thinking that. Con Air is like a fine wine, it gets better with age. Sure, NOW it would be considered a cult juggernaut, but when it was originally released cinema it wasn’t so well appreciated as you’d have expected. On a modest budget of $75 million, it was only able to must a gross of merely $225 million worldwide. So, as the finance goes, it was a pretty poor return, hardly the resounding blockbuster it deserved to be. Also, it didn’t fear to well with the critics; just 55% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But, you know what, screw the box office and the critics – CON AIR IS THE GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME.
“You’ve got Malkovich for the acting chops, you got Nicky cage for your action, Steve Buscemi for your comedy, John Cusack for the gays, Right?”