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‘Olympus Has Fallen’

by Giovanni Fazio

This latest bit of Hollywood “propatainment,” “Olympus Has Fallen,” is basically “Die Hard” in the White House, with Gerard Butler’s disgraced former Secret Service agent trying to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) from a team of crack North Korean commandos who plan to pry America’s nuclear launch codes out of him by torturing his young son.

Apparently it was Chinese commandos to start with, but I guess China is a moviegoing market worth not alienating, so it was either Kim Jong Un or Dr. Evil. (Although I’d bet good money a movie where the Chinese military takes over the White House would play pretty well in Beijing.)

So many are the films where America is attacked, and so few are the ones where they go around attacking people, which may seem curious to those of us who still reside in this dimension and not a parallel one. America — which spends almost as much on its military as the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined — is once again the outnumbered underdog, with the White House’s Secret Service agents perishing to the last man as a tattered Old Glory is lowered from the flagpole in defeat. Until, that is, the good guys regroup and kick some terrorist butt. USA! USA! USA!

Olympus Has Fallen (End of White House)
Rating
Director Antoine Fuqua
Run Time 120 minutes
Language English

Sure enough, the last shot of the film is the flag flying proudly in the wind once again as the president drones on about “freedom” and “our way of life” until closing with “May God bless the United States of America.” Jingoism is never a pretty thing to watch, but having your hero bash a bad guy’s brains in all over the Oval Office floor with a bust of Abraham Lincoln is really a bit much. “Olympus Has Fallen” is easily the most ridiculous piece of paranoid patriotism since, well, last year’s “Red Dawn” remake, which also had impoverished North Korea invading an empire 10 times its size in population. (Interestingly, “Red Dawn” also originally posited a Chinese invasion during production, but backed off under pressure.)

Director Antoine Fuqua (who made the decent “Training Day” once upon a time) continues Hollywood’s deplorable fixation with 9/11 porn, this time creating a terrorist plane attack on the Capitol that topples the Washington Monument onto a crowd of fleeing tourists. (A scene that was done before as a joke in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!”) Torture, as usual, is brutal and inhumane when the North Koreans do it, but our hero — an ex-special forces dude — uses it righteously on some captive Koreans to extract critical information. The backpack bombs used by the terrorists posing as White House tourists seem in particularly poor taste, coming right after the Boston Marathon tragedy.

The traitor on the inside who helps the North Koreans seize the White House, when asked why he did it, has a quick answer: “Globalization. You sold this country out to Wall Street.” As with “The Dark Knight Rises,” Hollywood cinema is again quick to equate Occupy idealism with terrorism and traitors, which of course is the point with propatainment, little slivers of an agenda subliminally piercing your mind amid the fireballs and shootouts.

For a chance to win one of five “Olympus Has Fallen” survival first-aid kits, visit jtimes.jp/film. The deadline is June 18.