Die hardly: patriotic plot from a chop shopMovies
Olympus Has Fallen - Trailer
Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack.PT2M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2hvg8 620 349 April 15, 2013
The timing is exquisite, excruciating. With North Korea threatening war, Hollywood offers us a violent thriller in which what appears to be a North Korean terrorist group attacks the White House. I kept wondering if this is the reason Kim Jong-un is so cranky lately. Did he get an advance copy on the streets of Pyongyang?
Something this stupid is not funny, although it is hard not to giggle at the film's neanderthal plot line.
''Olympus has fallen'' is the code uttered by a dying Secret Service agent in the wreckage of the first battle. At the State Department, where they monitor these communications, someone looks at the big screen with incredulity. ''They've taken the White House … '' At this point, there were hoots of laughter in my preview screening. It's that kind of movie. Someone else disagreed, calling out: ''It's not funny, you f---ing morons''.
A scene from Olympus Has Fallen. Photo: Supplied
He was right. Something this stupid is not funny, although it is hard not to giggle at the film's neanderthal plot line. I read that some American audiences have been stirred by the film's patriotic fervour, chanting ''USA! USA! USA!'' at the end. That confidence might be a little misplaced. In effect, they're cheering a film that shows how easy it would be to take the White House and how incompetent the American military response might be. That's necessary for the plot, of course. As in all action fantasy of this sort, it comes down to one man.
That man of action is the muscular, square-headed Scotsman Gerard Butler (300), playing Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent who was head of the presidential detail until a tragic accident.
His close friend President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) has had him transferred to a desk job at the Treasury. Banning watches from there as a C-130 Hercules unleashes a devastating assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Terrorists posing as tourists swarm across the White House lawn, killing everyone. Banning has to fight his way in past the bodies of fallen comrades. At a Washington DC hospital, his medical wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) wonders if he's safe, as the wounded start to arrive.
Stars and gripes: Aaron Eckhart as the US President at the centre of a terrorist attack on the White House. Photo: Supplied
The film was pitched as ''Die Hard in the White House''. That's the kind of shorthand that B-grade Hollywood loves. In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president, there were a lot of action films of hawkish bent, and no shortage of super-sized actors to play them (and Chuck Norris).
The director Antoine Fuqua wants us to remember them. There's an early scene in a cafe where Banning is having breakfast with the head of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett), below a framed photograph of Reagan signing a document. Hail to the chief.
Fuqua knows how to make good movies. He just chooses not to sometimes. His seven previous features were all based, to an extent, on action and violence. The best was Training Day with Denzel Washington, the oddest was probably his version of King Arthur with Keira Knightley in very little, but this is certainly the dumbest, loudest, most bone-headed film of his career.
Intense moment: Gerard Butler, left, as Mike Banning and Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher. Photo: Supplied
It is like Die Hard, but with a higher body count and no one as charming as Bruce Willis. Fuqua had a replica of the White House built so he could destroy it. The film has helicopters crashing on the lawn, explosions ripping through the West Wing, and the Washington Monument cut in half. Even with all the toys and budget, it looks cheesy, given the high quality of most visual effects.
Butler's character is ex-Special Forces, a lot nastier than John McClane. He executes several bandits at close range without hesitation. His adversaries are much worse, of course. Their leader Kang (Rick Yune) shoots numerous important people on camera, to gain the attention of the reluctant acting President (Morgan Freeman). The President's son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) is hiding in the White House. If they catch him, the terrorists will have the greatest possible leverage on the President.
This is not storytelling so much as story-assembly, like in a chop shop. That's hardly new but it has rarely been wrapped so nakedly and sentimentally in the flag. The film begins and ends with the American flag, and the bandits disrespect it in the middle. Dang, you gonna die for that you slippery bunch of …
It was common in 1980s Republican cinema to single out an enemy by race. Asians copped it for Vietnam. North Koreans were rarely the butt of these crude vilifications, but Fuqua has fixed that. The Korean peninsula can take its place in the ranks of those that Hollywood has libelled for a buck. ''Korean badass'' has entered the film lexicon. Kim Jong-un can be proud.