78. Con Air

At a certain point in life, you consider your tastes to be a bit more refined, your buds more matured after certain experiences in life. If you’ve grown enthusiastic about cooking in your late 20s, it’ll be hard to find joy defrosting discount ground beef and microwaving dollar ramen noodles. If you’re something of a wine or beer connoisseur, cracking open  a Coors Light or smacking a colorful bag of Franzia won’t entice your liver as sipping on a neatly-poured glass of a decades-old Merlot or Chardonnay. We grow, we change, we evolve, we are never the same person we were two minutes ago, and we never know the person we will become two years from now.

But for every immaculately-developed taste of ours, there is always an exception: the food snob who still loves a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwich, the classical music scholar who still gets groovy to Gwen Stefani. For film buffs, who’ve dedicated hundreds of hours to studying the art of cinema and its greatest auteurs, this exception is Con Air, which might possibly be the greatest movie ever made.

Con Air introduces a swarth of characters, all unique and interesting, and gives them proper screen time so their stories are always fresh in our mind. Director Simon West knows exactly when to leave Cameron Poe’s story and switch to John Malkovich, and then to John Cusack, and then to Steve Buscemi. Every person has clearly-defined motivations, everyone a chip on their shoulder or something they’re trying to prove or win. For Cameron Poe, a Southern gentleman played by Nicholas Cage who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, that motivation is meeting his daughter after an unfortunate bar fight lead to a multi-year stint in prison. For Vince Larkin, played with energy and enthusiasm by John Cusack, its bringing this plane of rag-tag criminal misfits to justice. And for Steve Buscemi, who plays a creepy serial killer, its finding life outside of being a monster, carving a new path that isn’t littered with the bones of his victims.

But we can’t forget the action! Explosions, gun fights, fist fights, fast cars, helicopters and motorcycles serve as companions to the plane’s adventures. It’s real, raw and rugged, a perfectly-designed studio flick that touches on all of our moviegoing sensibilities and leaves us begging for more. And then we get a detour in Las Vegas! How are us moviegoers so lucky?

I have to admit though, I went into watching Con Air with the notion that I would hate it, that I would find it stupid and look down on 7-year-old Justin for loving it while shaming my parents for taking me to see it in the first place decades ago when I could have been at home reading poetry or learning ancient Greek. But that didn’t happen. I loved it. It’s like adults who shame other adults for liking Disneyland. You can complain about the long lines, noisy kids and overpriced churros all you want, but you still have to admit there’s something magical about this place.

Most of the time when we’re traveling by air, we can’t wait for our flights to be over, waiting for that moment where we finally touch down and are able to stretch out and breathe. But if I had the choice, I’d rather be delayed if I could spend another two hours up in the skies holding my breath with Con Air.

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