Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A dodgy dossier for North Korea: Olympus Has Fallen reviewed

All action movies have a philosophy of violence behind them; that is to say an enemy and a justification for fighting them. 

An instigator, a victim and a seemingly righteous retaliation.

Olympus Has Fallen – or Die Hard In A White House – is underpinned by a philosophy of violence which is simple, straightforward and in places positively pernicious. Let me say off the bat that this doesn't detract from the film being something of a guilty pleasure. If you try not to think about it (and close your eyes during the brutal bits) it's a well-directed, tightly plotted slice of pie with a high calibre cast including Aaron 'Gravitas' Eckhart, Angela 'Moar Gravitas' Bassett and Morgan 'Even Moar Gravitas' Freeman.

But it's also a piece of Battle of Dorking-style jingoism which plays like a concert pianist on America's sense of victimhood, anxiety about those pesky furriners and lack of trust in its government.

The high concept plot: the North Korean enemy has struck without mercy at the heart of the country, taking the President hostage, and what can a poor Gerard Butler do but respond with equal prejudice? So he shoots, stabs, strangles, sweats and sentimentalises his way to the rescue, while the Powers That Be provide reluctant approval for his actions from the sidelines. That is, when they're not screwing up their own rescue attempts by ignoring our maverick on the spot.

Geopolitically speaking the timing for the release is perfect. With no-one being sure what the last tragicomic-opera communist state intends to the South and the rest of the world, Assault on White House 13 Olympus Has Fallen provides the cinematic equivalent of a dodgy dossier for North Korea.

Most depressingly, the fifth column at home is motivated by the values of Occupy, railing against the banks and corporate donations to presidential candidates. This is such a bare-faced, jaw-dropping piece of conflation of legitimate protest at home with dictatorship overseas, that if I didn't condemn it as insulting I'd be forced to applaud its cheek.

We'll be moving from the false certainty of conservatives to the confusion of progressives later this week, as we look at Iron Man 3.

Update: many thanks to Denise Atkins (no relation) who tells me that the baddies were actually changed in post-production from Chinese to North Korean. Make of that what you will...

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