In June. 6, 1997, an explosive hit movie titled Air conditioning by Jerry Bruckheimer has landed in cinemas around the world to make a statement. As well as being a high-speed, action-packed movie, the star was Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, the king of ’90s action movies. To this day, Air conditioning is still one of the best action movies, and here’s why.
Inspired by real events on US prisoner transport planes
During a 1997 interview by American television journalist Charlie Rose, film producer Jerry Bruckheimer revealed that Touchstone Pictures Vice President Donald De Line had read an LA Times article about the American program which carried approximately 150,000 prisoners each year. One of the prisoners who was transported under the program was Oklahoma City suicide bomber Timothy McVeigh – a domestic terrorist who killed 168 people and injured 680 others.
The article became the breeding ground for a story that would create the perfect storyline. Now, reading a prison story and preparing for such a movie are different things. For example, in order for Nicolas Cage to prepare for his role as Cameron Poe, he had to visit Folsom Prison to learn more about prison life; he described the process as “intense” in a 1997 interview with Bobbie Wygant. The idea of sitting down with convicts to listen to their crime stories was no walk in the park. But, he learned to ask questions about their life before prison and as inmates. Interestingly, Cage wasn’t the only person with questions; the inmates also sought advice on how to venture into Hollywood business. So it was a balanced process that helped him connect and learn a lot about them in a short time.
The production team’s learning of the prison program did not bear much fruit. Bruckheimer discussed this with Charlie Rose in the interview, saying, “The Marshalls who run the real plane say it was never taken over by the prisoners and wouldn’t cooperate with us, which nothing unusual. The government also couldn’t cooperate with us on Crimson Tide. But, as a world-class producer and storyteller, Bruckheimer expanded reality, added drama, and provoked the idea of prisoners taking control of the plane.
A perfect blend of action and romance
Con Air’s The opening scene begins with a thoughtful and compassionate message of appreciation for the services of the American Rangers. After Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) steps off a boat to meet his pregnant wife Tricia, viewers are escorted to warm, romantic music, “how i live”, performed by Trisha Yearwood. The calm and serene atmosphere of the Oyster Bar, combined with the warm embrace before a sensual kiss is an introduction that will make you smile. Soon after, the sweet scene turns sour with a bar fight that ends with Poe in jail for several years, robbing him of the experience of seeing his daughter’s birth and growth.
Throughout the film, there are many examples of contrast, perfectly combining romance or love with action. This deliberate movement of coupling these two forces is the vessel that takes Poe on a mad journey to meet his wife and daughter. As a viewer, your emotions are both cuddled and torn apart, prompting you to empathize even more with Poe and the other characters. Let us take another example of this contrast. After years in prison, Cameron Poe is paroled and released to return home. Until parole, Poe and his daughter wrote to each other for months, trying to imagine their first meeting. The castle they’re building in the air is threatened by a plane trip that’s hijacked by the deadliest prisoners at Alabama’s super max facility, Feltham Penitentiary. It’s not until the end of the film that we see Poe hugging his wife and daughter for the first time, and nothing serious happens. It also gets teary with the addition of the soundtrack. In addition to Cage performing brilliantly in action films, he is also excellent in comedy films.
After the film’s release, an exit poll was conducted the first weekend where 60% of young women under the age of 25 rated the film as excellent because it was romantic. Poe’s quest to meet his wife and daughter captivated people who weren’t comfortable with action movies. Even Bruckheimer recounted his mother’s comments, 93, at the time: “It brought tears to my eyes. I don’t like those kinds of movies, where you blow everything up. But I liked this one because it had a lot of heart.
Jerry Bruckheimer and Oscar-winning actors worked on the film
The relationship between Bruckheimer and Cage was already cultivated, since the two were working on the film The rock when Bruckheimer walked over to Cage’s trailer to hand him the Air conditioning script. Bruckheimer then interviewed Simon West, a young business manager at the time, who had never worked on a project like this before. West intrigued Bruckheimer because he was a visual director like Tony Scott and Michael Bay. While Scott Rosenberg was writing Con Air’s script, he envisioned some roles for actors like Steve Buscemi and John Cusack. Handpicking the right team and writing for specific actors like Cage, who play flawlessly, gave the film a special look and feel.
Bruckheimer also worked with comedians like Eddie Murphy, who had a big break with the hit Beverly Hills Cop franchise. This time, he chose Dave Chappelle, an up-and-comer who had starred in films like Robin Hood: Men in Tights. In Air conditioningChappelle starred as Pinball, a motor-mouthed henchman for Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich).
Air conditioning became a two-time Academy Award nominee in 1998 for Best Original Song (“How I live”) and better sound mixing. He didn’t win in any category because of the hit picture, Titanicwho had a great year at the movies.
A real plane crashed into the Real Sands Casino
Much of the credit goes to Simon West and the production team for using miniatures and hands-on effects for the explosions instead of employing lots of CGI effects. The film’s most iconic shot is the shooting of the smoking Jail Bird plane as it plummets over the Las Vegas Strip. The display was so realistic that many people called the authorities, panicking about the smoking plane. A spokesperson for McCarran International Airport disclosed to the Las Vegas Sun that they have received many calls about a plane crashing. But the control tower and the FAA were well aware of the shooting.
The coolest moment in production was when the plane crash-landed at the entrance to the Sands Casino in Las Vegas. The the casino was already to be demolished, and the filmmakers wanted to help with the demolition work. The owners blew up the tower and the film crew planned to blow up the front part. As there was only room for one take, 14 cameras filmed the entire accident. Just by watching the trailer for the movie when it was first released, viewers could tell it would be one of the greatest action movies of all time.