Olympus Has Fallen Director: Antoine Fuqua Screenwriter: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd Millennium Films Rated R | 120 Minutes Release Date: March 22, 2013
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Olympus Has Fallen stars Gerard Butler (300) as former U.S. Army Ranger Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent assigned to Presidential Detail.
After a tragic accident, Banning is demoted and re-assigned to a desk job in Washington. When the White House (Secret Service Code: “Olympus”) is captured by a North Korean terrorist and President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is held captive, House Speaker and Acting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) is forced to rely on Banning’s inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President, and avert a nuclear crisis.
Written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, Olympus Has Fallen is a Tea Party recruitment video disguised as an action-packed Movie For Guys Who Like Movies. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Freedom Ain’t Free bumper sticker – a shameless, disgusting movie that uses 9/11 imagery to promote xenophobia.
In the film, President Asher meets with the Foreign Minister of South Korea to discuss the ever-present threat of North Korea. Unbelievably, North Korean terrorist Kang Yeonsaka (Rick Yune) has disguised himself as a South Korean ministerial aide and infiltrates the meeting, murdering the Prime Minister and taking the President hostage.
So immediately, Fuquoa’s film tells us not to trust foreigners – especially those shifty Koreans. I mean, how can you tell if they’re the good kind or the bad kind? It’s best to be suspicious of anyone who isn’t a red-blooded American. There should be some kind of code like, “Finish this Toby Keith lyric,” to identify the real Americans.
I can practically smell the piss-tinged aroma of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the air as the President spits in the face of his captors and proclaims “The United States of America DOES NOT neogotiate with terrorists!” Olympus Has Fallen is like the “America (Fuck Yeah!)” musical number from Team America: World Police but, instead of mocking the stereotypical American’s jingoist form of patriotism, it celebrates it.
There’s a moment in Olympus Has Fallen where Banning has detained two of Kang’s henchman and attempts to “extract” information from them. He begins this interrogation by immediately stabbing one of them through the bottom of the jaw, thrusting the blade up into their skull. Next, he stabs the remaining terrorist in the knee. The thug begins screaming in Korean to which Banning replies “IN ENGLISH PLEASE” as he twists the knife.
Now, what’s this tell us? First, it’s a blatant celebration of torture and validates it as a method of retrieving vital information from enemies. When concerned officials ask how he obtained the secret intel, Banning says he “asked nicely,” to which everyone knowingly smirks. Next, the fact that this American super-soldier doesn’t speak or understand Korean suggests we shouldn’t even bother learning their language because we shouldn’t pursue peaceful negotiations – we’re American, dammit! We’ll put a boot in your ass!
Olympus Has Fallen feels like it was written by a basement-dwelling 15-year-old whose diet consists of Monster Energy drinks and KFC Breakfast Bowls – a Call of Duty video game exercise where hundreds, if not thousands, of people are violently murdered with an assortment of semi-automatic assault rifles and Rambo knives.
Consider for a moment MacGruber, the 2010 comedy starring Will Forte as a parody of MacGyver. In that film, Forte’s character constantly threatens to rip the villain’s dick off and shove it in his mouth. It’s an absurd, hilarious threat that comments on America’s need to constantly one-up its enemies and attain the ultimate revenge.
In the case of Fuquoa’s film, Banning threatens a terrorist with the ol’ “I’m going to take this knife and stab you in the brain” line – and sure enough, he follows through – a moment of extreme violence that is less about justice and more about revenge – and at the screening I attended, the crowd cheered with great pleasure in this savage act.
Fuquoa’s movie feels like a professional wrestling soap opera, except I can’t tell if the bloodthirsty crowd is chanting “USA! USA!” or “NRA! NRA!”. Olympus Has Fallen is Donald Rumsfeld’s wet dream – a perverse, violent, exploitive piece of propaganda that scares its audience into agreeing with the egregious actions carried out by its one-dimensional characters.
Antoine Fuquoa’s Olympus Has Fallen manages to be a dumber, more offensive film than John Moore’s A Good Day to Die Hard. While Moore’s disaster of a film is all-around bad – bad direction, bad writing, bad acting, bad editing – it’s just another empty, loud action movie with zero ambition. Olympus Has Fallen, however, has an agenda – to manipulate its audience by using 9/11 imagery and fear – a reprehensible act I thought only masterminds like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were capable of carrying out.