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Cinema in Focus: ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

This film presents an unlikely but devastating attack

3 Stars — Challenging

When the world witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, it took everyone, including the president of the United States, a long time to fully grasp the magnitude of the danger for our country.

We all tend to face major events in our lives with a sense of disbelief. Such is the case within the White House when an unexpected eminent attack on Washington, D.C., begins.

Olympus Has Fallen dramatizes a significant assault on the seat of western global power by a disgruntled former North Korean who pieces together an assault army bigger than most countries could muster. With full military aircraft, NATO-grade missiles and high-tech assault rifles that would make any gun lover proud, an air and ground attack is executed on the White House in a way not seen since the British invasion of 1812.

Within minutes, the defenses of Washington, D.C., are obliterated and the president of the United States, his secretary of state and chief military advisers retreat to a subterranean bunker capable of withstanding a nuclear attack deep beneath the White House.

When the attack began, President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) was meeting with the South Korean ambassador and his staff, along with the secretaries of state and defense and the vice president, to discuss the potential dangers that were present from the actions of North Korea. All of these high-level guests are rushed to the subterranean bunker and locked down with the president.

Little did everyone realize that this was part of a bigger plot to isolate the U.S. chain-of-command. Now sealed beyond rescue, the Korean security team shoots the Korean ambassador and holds the president of the United States hostage and begins the process of taking control of the U.S. Missile Command, an action that could provoke a nuclear war.

Leading this dizzying charge is Kang (Rick Yune), a former North Korean who tried to escape to South Korea only to see his parents killed by U.S. forces at the border. He is aided and abetted by a disgruntled former rouge U.S. military adviser played by Dylan McDermott.

After hundreds die trying to save the White House, the only “good guy” left is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a somewhat disgraced former Secret Service officer who used to protect President Asher. Following in the tradition of Die Hard, the story unfolds with one man taking down an assault from a deadly army of foes.

Olympus Has Fallen carries on in the best tradition of a Saturday afternoon mystery thriller. It is stunning in its special effects, which only match its stunning improbability that any individual could assemble the technology that Kang possesses. Nevertheless, this is a sobering story that brings to mind about how vulnerable even the most powerful and protected leaders of a country can be. It certainly raises the question about whether we are ever safe from attack, or whether the safeguards that are in place to protect us from an overthrow of the government are strong enough.

In the end, we are left with the traditional Hollywood conclusion that space aliens, undocumented aliens or the alienated can never defeat the United States of America.

Discussion:

» The creativity of humanity makes it difficult to be safe from those who intend harm. If we trust in military force to protect us, where do you think this will eventually lead us?

» Though improbable that our government would take a foreign delegation into secure areas, what responsibility do you think we have for protecting leaders from other countries while visiting our nation? What responsibility does other nations have to protect our leaders?

» The nature of war is deceit. How do you think we can protect ourselves from this?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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