Friday, August 30, 2019

Olympus Has Fallen: Not Just Die Hard in the White House

Not sure why I never saw this movie, but hat tip to Ralph Garman for bringing it up. Now, I have zero fingernails.

Last week on the Friday episode of his wonderful podcast The Ralph Report (my review), Garman commented on the third film in the series, Angel Has Fallen, debuting. He and co-host Eddie Pence, chuckled at the name of the main character in this franchise--Mike Banning--as being a typical action film movie name. The little bit made me chuckle, and Garman mentioned he liked the first film. The new movie looked interesting as I have a fondness for the Movies of August so I checked Netflix to see if Olympus Has Fallen. It did. So, I settled in to see "Mike Banning, Secret Service Agent."

The Premise

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a secret service agent to President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), First Lady Margaret (Ashley Judd), and their son, Connor (Finley Jacobson). They're in a snowstorm at Camp David, but they have to drive somewhere. Never a good idea. There's an accident, and Banning makes the only choice he can: save the president, lose the First Lady.

Eighteen months later, Banning mans a desk. He wants back in but Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) reminds Mike the president doesn't want to be reminded of that night even though Banning made the right choice. All of this is prelude for the terrorist attack on the White House where Banning finds himself on the outside and rushes to the scene.

The Attack

Look, I know it's a movie, but there's something visceral when you see the seat of our government attacked not by aliens but by flesh-and-blood terrorist. Director Antoine Fuqua shows all the Secret Service agents, military personnel, and policemen and women trying in vain to stop the attack. All of them fall, and its sobering. Especially when the bad guys--led by Kang Yeonsak, as played with wily cunning by Bond villain veteran Rick Yune--have an answer to every counterattack. It was during this series of visuals where my fingernails started being assaulted.

As with Air Force One, I was really, really hoping one of the good guys wasn't a traitor. Well, that must be in another movie, because one doesn't cast Dylan McDermott as a Secret Service agent only to get shot. No, he's with the president's detail as he and the South Korean delegation take shelter in the bunker. McDermott's Forbes makes himself known as he and the South Korean  "security detail" reveal themselves and take out the remaining resistance surrounding the president.

Then things get really nasty.

The Ticking Clock

If it wasn't bad enough as a viewer to see the White House attacked and defeated, when the bad guys start torturing the administration officials for the nuclear codes, it gets worse. One always hopes good people can stand up to bad ones, but we're human, and good people always care about one another. It is brutal, and the acting is fantastically believable.

What's also scary are the reactions to all the folks outside the bunker when they realize that the particular nuclear codes are being entered. There's absolutely no way to stop it from the outside. They can only watch.

But they have a man inside: Banning has entered the White House, and into a certain type of film.

Die Hard in the White House

Look, if we're being honest, that is what this film is about. One man against a team of bad guys and he has to do what he can. It starts with finding the president's son and getting him out. Because if the terrorist capture his son, the president will give in. Any parent would, no matter if he or she is the president or not.

As a writer, I was already imagining where this was going. But...and spoilers if you've not seen it...Banning finds Connor and he escapes unharmed! He climbed up through an air shaft and had to watch the shadows of Banning killing a guy. Then, in pure tough-guy-as-likeable-'big brother' type, Banning just says it was a false alarm and for Connor to continue. Even though I was watching this show by myself, I literally uttered a "Yes!" and pumped my fist. The wave of calmness that swept over me was visceral. And it's just a movie.

But isn't that what is supposed to happen? It did when I watched the new movie Hobbs and Shaw this year (on the same day in fact). Or Avengers. Or Mission Impossible: Fallout. Or name any other movie for which I've written a review. The feels--whether happiness, sadness, sorrow, love, or excitement--is why we watch movies.

As much as I enjoyed the "Die Hard in the White House" aspect, there was still a doubt in my head and fingernails to be chewed. I knew the nuclear codes would be turned off. Why? Because we have sequels, and the previews for the new movie, Angel Has Fallen, doesn't take place in a post-nuclear America. But what it does show is Morgan Freeman as the president. In Olympus Has Fallen, Freeman is Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull. He's brought in when both the president and vice president are captured (and the VP is killed). Trumbull is the acting president in Olympus...and he's president in Angel Has Fallen...and I didn't want to look at the synopsis of the middle film, London Has Fallen, but something happens to where Trumbull is elevated to the top job.

Speaking of that, what's up with the poster? This is Butler's movie with Eckhart as the president. Why does Freeman get center billing?

Would Aaron Eckhart's President Asher make it out of Olympus alive? Well, thankfully for this movie and this viewer, he does. Because of bad ass Mike Banning. Just like Bruce Willis's character in Die Hard and Harrison Ford in Air Force One and others, Banning's not without injury and pain. But he does what he must to save the president and save the world.

Because he's [assume that deep, baritone movie trailer voice] Mike Banning, Secret Service Agent.

Man, I thoroughly enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, despite the beating my nails took. It's an action film, sure, and its one using a template we've had for over thirty years. But this one is different. It's a sobering reminder that there are men and women out there who's sole job it is to protect the president, our governmental institutions, and our country. It's something each of us should never take for granted.

I'll seek out London Has Fallen soon so I can catch Angel Has Fallen in theaters. Olympus Has Falled is very much recommended.

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