The stars and stripes—at times singed, tattered or soiled—flutter in slow-motion with shameless frequency in Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen.” As in Fuqua’s “Shooter” (2007), our president is in danger and one highly-trained, ex-military rule-breaker is our savior. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is kidnapped on the fifth of July by Kang (Rick Yune), a North Korean terrorist keen “to end the civil war your country interrupted so long ago.” His pilots’ toppling of the Washington Monument looks exactly like the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. His suicide bombers breach the White House fence, dressed like either tourists or Black Bloc anarchists, commandos in black ski masks who take over the White House. The president is a prisoner in his own underground Presidential Emergency Operations Center. If Kang can access three passwords, he will detonate ICBMs in their stateside silos. “Now America too will know suffering,” he seethes. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler)—“the guy who told the Speaker of the House to go fuck himself”—sneaks inside the White House, code-named “Olympus.” And before the Secretary of Defense can finish her recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, the day is saved. First the acting president and then the freed president go on TV to God-bless America and the Americans. “Mount Olympus is the traditional home of the Greek and Roman gods,” states Fuqua in the press notes for his “cautionary tale.” “The White House crumbles in an unthinkable manner… Rome, the great empire, becomes America, and its greatest monument collapses.” In Fuqua’s “King Arthur” (2004) the Christian hero undertakes a mission to rescue Roman civilians from Saxon heathens. “Your God doesn’t live here,” he’s warned. A U.S. Navy SEAL team in Fuqua’s “Tears of the Sun” (2003) rescues a U.S. national and Nigerian refugees from a civil war. “God be with you,” offers a priest. “God already left Africa,” mutters Bruce Willis’ character. “I don’t want God’s forgiveness—I want his fucking help,” yells a narcotics cop in Fuqua’s “Brooklyn’s Finest” (2010). Fuqua gets hired to direct a lot of these God-and-country scripts with chaotic action. An undesecrated U.S. flag will unfurl over the Olympus of D.C., once Mike takes out Kang and his “United People’s Front of Who-Gives-a-Fuck.” With Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Ashley Judd. 120m. (Bill Stamets)
“Olympus Has Fallen” opens Friday.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.