Michael501 📺’s review published on Letterboxd:
1981 In Review - July
In 1997, a major war between the United States and the Soviet Union is concluding, and the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a giant maximum security prison. When Air Force One is hijacked and crashes into the island, the president (Donald Pleasence) is taken hostage by a group of inmates. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces soldier turned criminal, is recruited to retrieve the president in exchange for his own freedom.
Kurt Russell’s early acting roles were mainly in kid friendly Disney vehicles such as The Computer Wore Tennis shoes and The Barefoot Executive, and in the 70’s specifically, he was Disney’s top star. After a decade, Kurt craved different roles and in 1979 he got the chance to work with future collaborator John Carpenter. There was no turning back after that. So in 1981, when Carpenter had a screenplay that needed a character that was a mercenary with a fighting style a mix of Bruce Lee, The Exterminator and Darth Vader alongside Clint Eastwood’s vocal-ness, he wanted Russell for the part. Kurt Russell saw it as an opportunity to overcome his lightweight screen image that had been conveyed in his several roles with Disney over the years. Hard to believe now that the studio didn’t want Russell, they wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones. How different history would have been, if the studio got their way.
It’s a great film. Maybe a little dated now, but there’s a reason why Snake Plisken is one of the great anti-heroes. It also has one of Carpenter’s iconic scores.