I love the Die Hard films, except for the most recent one because it was terrible, dull and contained none of the traditional wrong place, good man doing what has to be done themes (they actually list those in Die Hard 4, perhaps that’s why they thought they couldn’t do them anymore). Why am I on about Die Hard? Because Olympus Has Fallen is a Die Hard movie. Since we saw the trailer we’ve been calling it Die Hard in the White House. It makes the film even more fun.
Our main dude (Gerard Butler) is an ex-Secret Service presidential bodyguard who becomes ‘ex’ after saving the president (Aaron Eckhardt) but not his wife from an icy death. All very unfortunate, but told concisely and well enough that you begin to give a damn about the characters. Fortunately he now works at the Treasury next door to the White House. This will come in handy.
Terrorists! Koreans! Hurray. American gung ho movies are at their most amusing when picking on their Oriental foes (almost as good as having Brit bad guys). It’s so full of hatred and relish in their ultimate defeat. It’s fun to cheer on the bad guys too. Especially in this as they are vastly more competent, prepared and likeable. We are delighted by the vision of a plane strafing Washington DC with machine gun fire (though it’s oddly bloodless, especailly compared with what comes later), a coach load of tourists pulling guns out and shooting the utterly inept Secret Service guys, cops and anyone else nearby. Their insurgency is swift, slick and increasingly bloody. There are lots of head shots to enjoy.
Thank goodness we have Gerard Butler. He’s able to sneak in the back, shooting folk in the head, during the takeover of the White House. He’s gruff, tough and best mates with the president’s kid. There’s no particular need to dwell on the rest of the story – the bad guys are holding the president hostage in his bunker, nuclear weapons, techno-blinkie-thing of doom etc. The action is fast and fun – as I said before, it gets pretty bloody and there is also the sort of beating up of women that Hollywood films are really keen on at the moment. All that aside the action is well choreographed and grim. Butler gets some amusing quips in, as does the baddie played by a glacial Rick Yune. It plaays out predictably and no doubt receives applause in the US cinema.
Personally I never get tired of seeing the White House blown to pieces, and that’s in this a lot. I’m sure it’s supposed to be gritty realism, but the main message is how incompetent the president’s top staff and everyone in the military except for that Scottish guy who used to be mostly naked and oiled. Oh no, that’s 300. Oh well. What I was most consistently amused by were the accurate and critical comments of American foreign policy and selfish wealthy attitudes. These come up several times and are just laughed off. There are also the usual terrible decisions of their military commanders, and the general wickedness of America’s enemies.
There are a whole series of perplexing judgments, not least the decision to withdraw the Seventh Fleet and pull out of South Korea. The USA’s responsibilities apparently end with preserving the life of their figurehead. That same commander in chief tells his colleagues to give up their super secret codes without a fight and praises them for their strength. Weird. It’s very entertaining bollocks and I chuckled along happily throughout. Watch it, enjoy.
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