Knowing how to deal with the president of the United States being taken hostage should be part of military training by now. The SWAT teams and the Navy Seals, and all the other forces, should be up and ready to rescue the president in a matter of seconds, and they shouldn’t need a bunch of old fogies huddled around a conference table telling them how to do it either. If America has seen the number of times her president has been captured, or threatened, by terrorists in the movies, her special forces would have rescued Aaron Eckhart a dozen times over in Olympus Has Fallen.
That’s the major flaw with this movie. Or one of the flaws. The terrorists charge The White House and make it look so easy. They shoot and kill all the security agents without hardly breaking a sweat. They keep the key hostages in the bunker and run their operation from there. Their only eyes on the outside world are fixed to camera lenses. Why, then, do they remain triumphant for ninety percent of the movie? Can the U.S. army not execute a similarly efficient operation to reclaim the building? It does have the numbers. At one point, helicopters are ordered to fly in and land troops on the roof. That’s a smart idea. But they are unaware that a massive machine gun that spews bullets is perched on the roof, and it guns all six choppers down, just like that. What if the choppers were merely a diversion, and the real assault came from the ground?
I can only think of one valid answer: The events of the movie take place — or are supposed to take place — over the course of one night. So maybe intelligent decisions cannot be made hastily. I would readily believe this, if it weren’t for scenes showing high-ranking officials brooding in the war room and asking for cups of coffee, with three Sweet ‘N Lows. Where is the urgency? Where is the horror and the shock? Your president has been captured. He might be tortured, or worse. Hundreds of civilians have died. Buildings and monuments have crumbled, and now there might be a nuclear threat that could wipe out the entire population. How could you possibly ask for three Sweet ‘N Lows?
I have seen my fair share of political thrillers that involve the abduction of the American president in some form or another. Air Force One comes to mind first, not least because it also has an international terrorist whose demands are not that different from the terrorists’ in Olympus Has Fallen. Always, the liberation of one’s nation. Both movies are exciting and thoroughly predictable, but where Air Force One has the upper hand is in its creativity to set the bulk of the movie on a plane, miles in the air. The danger is compounded; the thrill is amplified. One wrong move and you could be sucked out into god knows where. Olympus doesn’t have this. It is essentially the same story, but without the added risk.
And still I am compelled to say that it isn’t a bad movie. There is adrenaline pumping through its veins. We are given a hero who is the 21st Century’s John McClane. His name is Banning (Gerard Butler), and he is essentially the one-man army the country should have supplied from the beginning. Butler is great. He knows the role and he knows how to play it. He doesn’t try to do too much, nor does he downplay the action hero bit. He is exactly what the story needs, and he delivers with about as much enthusiasm as you would expect. He is also the only character with a working brain in his head. But that’s okay because if the movie was any more intelligent, it’d be less fun. The Butler character keeps it on the rails without adding more coal to the steam.
I suppose this is why the movie is so entertaining. It is mindless action, weaved around impossible scenarios, yet it never fails to keep the story pumping forward. It is predictable, yes, but there are little twists and turns along the way that prove to be more rewarding than the actual resolution.
There is another movie out this year that deals with some sort of attack on The White House. It also involves a secret agent, and its name is essentially a synonym for “Olympus has fallen”. Already the plagiarism bells are a-ringing. But one can only hope that whatever happens to The White House in it isn’t as easily accomplished.
Best Moment | No. No outstanding moment.
Worst Moment | Many of the scenes in the war room — or whatever room that is — make the generals and the secretaries look so appallingly stupid that you’re bound to wonder how any of them manages to keep the country running.