Movie Mechanic: State of the Union Special – Olympus Has Fallen

Make: Millennium Films

Model: Presidential Action Thriller

Year: 2013

It’s hard to remember there was a time when the president was so revered that the plot to Olympus Has Fallen seemed plausible (i.e., the president is captured and his political opponents actually care). Standing in for Obama is Aaron Eckhart as President Ben Asher, with Ashley Judd as the First Lady, and some kid as the president’s son. In retrospect, the plot doesn’t hold up. The problem with the plot is that presidents are replaceable, but Olympus wants us to think that POTUS is some kind of god-king whose life is worth more than all of our military installations, the Washington Monument, military aircraft, and the Greater D.C. civilian population. We are supposed to simply apply all the Hope and Change to Aaron Eckhart without him having to do anything presidential. Contrast this with Air Force One where Harrison Ford’s version of the president kicks all the ass himself, rather than leaving it to anyone else.

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(Sorry, I have to take a minute to just imagine what this movie would be like if it came out today. Instead of North Koreans storming the White House, it would be Angry Feminists led by Alyssa Milano demanding the President resign and forsake his toxic masculinity. Morgan Freeman would be playing Nancy Pelosi, and he wouldn’t be fighting for the president’s survival. He’d be shouting for the kidnappers to pull the trigger!)

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Okay, so the president worship is over the top. There is also the issue that John Wick followed in 2014, so Olympus could not take advantage of the game-changing action flick. Instead of cool, unbroken action shots, we get brutal, shaky-cam, short burst shots. And, although Gerard Butler’s action stylings are different from Keanu’s, the long shot format can still improve the action sequences inside the White House.

So, in our rebuild, Aaron Eckhart is going to do more than sit in a bunker waiting to be killed. Also, Gerard Butler’s action sequences are going to be shot in 30 second shots, like John Wick.

REBUILD

When the attack begins, Eckhart ducks out to find his kid. He realizes the attack is being perpetrated by the Koreans. He manages to kill a few and steal a radio before he is knocked out and dragged into the bunker.

When he comes to, he is tied up. He decides to escape, but the Koreans start killing the other hostages. He relents, but only until he can find an opportunity.

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Meanwhile, Butler is killing the baddies, as one does. But he does so in longer continuous shots, rather than shaky, short bursts. The baddies fins out he is there, as does the prez. When the baddies send a guy out to kill Butler, the prez furtively kicks some debris into the door to keep it from locking.

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Butler saves the First Kid and kills the guy sent to kill him. But not before he forces the guy to make a false report to the bunker that Butler is dead. Eckhart knows he is the only one left. He has to do something. He silently informs the remaining hostages that they need to make a break for it.

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At that moment, the baddies let their demands be known to Morgan Freeman, acting president: Remove your troops from their positions near the DMZ. Freeman refuses. “Sorry, Mr. President,” he says, “One man’s life does not outweigh everyone else’s.” Eckhart nods. The 4 hostages make a break for it. Elkhart is still ziptied so he just hangs out. One of the hostages is shot before reaching the door. Two more get killed trying to escape the White House. The last one makes the main lobby where Butler is. He guns down her pursuers allowing her to escape.

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The baddies have obtained 2 of three launch codes for the nuclear arsenal. The president has the third and final, but he isn’t talking. The baddies decide to try to hack the 8-character, alphanumeric password. Unfortunately, it is going to take the computer 20,000 years to generate the correct password because math. They get desperate and threaten the president. They cut him loose and start to drag him to the console, when he grabs a gun, breaks free and kills some captors on his way out the door. He hides behind the door as he escapes and kills two more guys as they come out to chase him. Butler shows up and the final showdown begins. While the lead bad guy is choking Butler, the president shoots him in the stomach. Butler then grabs a knife and stabs him in the brain, as promised. Good guys win, and bad guys lose.

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WRAP UP

In our rebuild, the president acts presidential, the action is cooler, and passwords are realistic. If you could simply crack a nuclear code in a matter of hours, it wouldn’t be very effective. Also, no one is giving up military advantages for the president.

Enjoy the State of the Union address, and try to imagine what would happen if Trump were president in Olympus Has Fallen.

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