Film Views: “Olympus Has Fallen”

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Years ago, I screened “Wag the Dog” for my students in a political science class. We were talking about media manipulation, and I thought the movie would serve as a good example of that. After the film was over, one student raised his hand and said, “Um, the film was entertaining. But seriously, THAT could never happen today. With the Internet, what they set up in the film is just not possible.” We talked about people only believing certain news sources (even when presented with information that proved what was being reported was false). My student didn’t buy it and held fast to his view.

Well, watching “Olympus Has Fallen” on Netflix reminded me of my student. From the outset, it was clear that in a post-9/11 world where security and countermeasures have been implemented up the wahzoo, the filmmakers of this sorry example of an action movie overlooked some very basic things that would not happen in this day and age.

However, before I get to my problems with the film, here’s a brief synopsis on what it’s about. Oh, and instead of me recapping the plot, I’m going to be lazy and just paste in the IMDB description:

Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack [on the White House]; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.

That’s the shell of the plot. Where I started muttering under my breath that “this would not happen” was a scene where the terrorists (from North Korea) fly a military-style, unmarked prop plane to Washington D.C. to shoot up the place. The Air Force scrambles jets to intercept the bad guys just miles from the White House. And when the jets do intercept, they give them far too many warnings before trying to shoot them down. Mind you, if an unidentified plane was on course to Washington D.C. in this day and age, I’m pretty sure more than two jets would be scrambled to intercept. Also, the defenses around the White House are probably beefed up to shoot down any approaching hostile well before they are even close to U.S. airspace.

Second: the kidnapping of the President was also beyond “movie” belief. When the terrorist plane that was able to shoot down state of the art jet fighters with machine guns starts strafing the White House and residents in D.C. with surprising precision, the President is hustled into an underground bunker. Now, right before the attack, the President is in a meeting with a South Korean Prime Minister in the White House, so right away you know that the meeting has something to do with the kidnapping of the President. During the attack as the President is being carried away, he insists that the South Korean delegation be housed with him in the bunker. One of the secret service guys says “That’s not proper protocol,” but the President insists. Well, guess who’s in the South Korean delegation? Yep, the terrorist mastermind behind this attack. Do you think a President would be able to override security protocols designed to protect the country when the whole place is going to hell? I don’t think so.

Third: Well, with the North Korean terrorist mastermind in the bunker, guess what happens? Yes, he kills a bunch of security people, beats the crap out of the President, and proceeds to extract security codes to launch our nuclear weapons. Okay, the office of the President is bigger than one man, but do you think this President knows that? Does he not think that if he sacrifices himself for the sake of the country that others in the line of succession wouldn’t step in and protect the codes? Nope. Everyone, from the generals to the national security people act like chickens with their heads cut off in this film. C’mon people! If you’re going to make an even remotely plausible film about terrorists taking over the White House and kidnapping the President, at least game out some better scenarios. There was too much left to chance that worked in favor of the terrorists to even be remotely plausible — especially for the Evil Genius who masterminded this takeover.

When you have logical flaws that are this deep in a film, not only does one have to suspend belief to make it through to the end, but if you’re going to stay with it ’til the end, just know you can’t get two hours of your life back.