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Olympus Has Fallen

This White-House-based actioner is a twisted tonic, reinforcing the worst of our national impulses



Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen is pretty much "Die Hard in the White House." After North Koreans (not a typo) take the building, the Prez (Aaron Eckhart) is held captive in the basement bunker by the moustache-twirling villain. The Prez's only chance comes from the lone remaining Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler), who trained at the Stallone-Schwarzengger-Willis School For American Ass-Kicking (majoring in Guns and Quips, with a minor in Knives).

I imagined watching this B-grade actioner with an actual U.S. president, as he called out: "This is bullshit! There's no secret panel behind that painting of Lincoln!" I can't speak to the panel, but this film is bullshit, from its idiotic premise that the White House is simultaneously a secure and insecure facility and its groaner dialogue, to its flag-waving endorsement of ultra-violence tinged with xenophobia and macho posturing.

The screening audience enjoyed it, laughing at bloodshed and cheering for the "good guy," who singlehandedly restores justice, liberty and so on, by acting like a crack-fueled gangster with intimacy issues. Olympus is a comic-book fantasy, cravenly designed to assuage our anxieties about America in the 21st century. But it's a twisted tonic, reinforcing the worst of our national impulses. And it's so outlandish Fuqua might as well have saved the White House by having a unicorn ride in and sprinkle lovey-dovey dust on everybody. 

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