Olympus Has Fallen
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell
120 minutes, 2013
After a band of North Korean terrorists’ attack and nearly destroy the White House, they take the President and his staff hostage and barricade themselves in an underground bunker where they plan a nuclear holocaust. Is everything going to be such a piece of cake for these villains? No, because they haven’t counted on one of the President’s bodyguards. This bodyguard has a traumatic past and has been looking for the chance to overcome his feelings of guilt and reclaim his honor.
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In the beginning there was Die Hard (1988), the action-thriller that brought urban apocalypse and violence to the skyscraper of a multinational corporation. In Die Hard, the hero was forced to overthrow the villains and liberate the hostages before the countdown ran out and without the option of exiting the building (following the Aristotelian unity of time, place and action). The Die Hard formula was so successful it has been replicated many times. It never differs too much from the original formula: using the famous action actor of the moment and changing the scenario (ships, trains, airplanes, prisons, ice skating rinks, etc.).
While the shock of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers prevented producers from making light of certain subjects, after more than ten years this overused format comes back to the screen (perhaps thanks to the series of superhero movies that has helped the American cinema overcome the disillusion it has fallen into). In Olympus Has Fallen, the scenario utilizes nothing less than the White House.
This film is a loud and unlikely action movie, and, while the storytelling and directing are good, Antoine Fuqua doesn’t prove to have the same talent in creating suspense that he showed in Training Day. We don’t question the message of the familial and democratic values the movie consists on, but the patriotic rhetoric is so theatrical that it creates a sense of alienation. Because the plot is the same as thousands of others, the viewer can only find enjoyment in the predictability of the film (the hero with his sense of guilt, the secret agent that betrays his country, the dull trooper…).
On one hand, Hollywood seems to want to have fun and shoot a movie that looks like it was written in the 80s as homage to the genre, much as the French The Artist (2012) is homage to the silent picture movies of the 20’s. On the other hand, we can’t help but to notice the resemblance between this movie and the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon (2013), as well as the precision that the movie identifies the revival of an enemy of the USA: North Korea. Commercial American cinema has always been capable of expressing the worst fears of our civilization in contemporary time. It is a pity, that in reality, we don’t have Gerard Butler to protect us.
Problematic elements: scenes of violence and psychological tension, bad language.