by Coop Cooper
I haven’t seen a good, original ‘Go America!’ movie in a long time. They were such Hollywood staples during the 80’s and 90’s, but they eventually gave way to superhero films, tepid remakes and R-rated comedies. The best, recent example of this sub-genre done right was “Battle: Los Angeles” in 2011, but it was eviscerated by critics, much to my dismay and many other movie-goers who liked it and made it a minor box office success. Can an ultra-patriotic action film like “Olympus Has Fallen” succeed where “Battle” did not?
Disgraced Secret Service agent turned cop, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) watches the White House from afar after losing a member of the First Family to a tragic accident under his watch. On the day the Commander-In-Chief (Aaron Eckhart) meets with the Prime Minister of South Korea, a gunship breeches air security and lays waste to White House security and much of the City’s law enforcement. The building is overrun by a enemy agents disguised as tourists and the President is held hostage. Luckily, Banning is able to insert himself into building before the invaders can seal it up. Meanwhile the Speaker of the House, and acting President, Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) tries to help Banning from the outside.
“Olympus Has Fallen” is a bombastic Hollywood action movie that relies on absurdity and a lot of artistic license to justify its improbable plot. First, let’s look at what would have to happen for a foreign power to pull this off… They would have to infiltrate the highest levels of the South Korean government. Then they would have to steal an armed U.S. military gunship and get away scott-free without alarming any security forces, fly into the most highly restricted airspace in the country and single-handedly destroy any intercepting fighters, or anti-aircraft measures (definitely a suicide mission). Also, you have to sneak in a small army with massive amounts of ordinance to wipe out enough Secret Service and law enforcement and still have enough troops left to secure the White House and take everyone else hostage. Inside you would need a high-ranking traitor to help counteract the procedures and failsafes that could trip up the operation. Most of all you would need a plan that would make such a bold, suicidal attack worthwhile. Unfortunately the reason is somewhat predictable and mostly uninteresting but if you can suspend disbelief, it’s basically “Die Hard” in the White House, which is a pretty neat idea if that’s all you consider.
The villains are the most unrealistic aspect of the film by far. Just as it was ridiculous that North Korea could successfully invade America in the recent “Red Dawn” remake, believing they could pull off a stunt like this is beyond ludicrous. It could have been more realistic and interesting if it had been a militia force of ex-U.S. Soldiers attempting to stage a coup to create a new government. That would be far too edgy and political for Hollywood. Likewise they wouldn’t dare use China as villains, not when they are such a big part of the market for foreign film distribution. Middle Eastern terrorists don’t have the resources and Canada doesn’t have the initiative. I guess we are going to be stuck with tiny, hardly-intimidating country of North Korea being our go-to villain for the next decade or so.
Add to all of that, the remainder of the government, including Freeman’s character, does far too much negotiating with the bad guys and caving to their demands when it made no sense to do so. Realistically, it would have been far easier to defeat the villains and prevent another WWIII by sacrificing the hostages and the President. Since we don’t negotiate with terrorists, that is surely what would have been done if this scenario had been real.
Is it realistic? Not in the slightest. In fact, it’s downright brainless. Is it entertaining? You bet. Gerard Butler continues to prove himself as an action star and the all-star cast plays their parts predictably well. With the current political climate, I wonder if critics could support such a film or if the public could digest it. I’m going to make a wild guess… Critics: No. Public: An enthusiastic Yes.
At least one other Hollywood studio is hoping this formula works. “White House Down” releases late June with a near identical plot. Hopefully it has a more plausible reason for attacking the White House when such an act would hardly cripple the U.S. government. It sure would make us mad though which makes for good action cinema for those who aren’t too cynical to enjoy it as cornball eye candy.
Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars