"The most protected building on Earth has fallen."
-- Lawrence O'Donnell (himself)
Almost eerie how timely this movie is. As we watch North Korean propaganda and listen to boy potentate Kim Jong Un promise to launch nuclear destruction on us, Hollywood conveniently has an action movie where the danger from Al Qaeda is eclipsed by Kang (Rick Yune), a North Korean terrorist who commandeers the White House and holds the President (Aaron Eckhart) hostage, threatening the POTUS's execution if his demands are not met. While it's pretty easy to guess what those demands might be, Kang's true objective may not be so immediately apparent.
Just as an aside, I wonder how many people would actually vote for Aaron Eckhart for President. Do you think it would be more or less than voted for Harrison Ford in Air Force One, or Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact? Bet it would be a LOT more than would have voted for Donald Pleasance in Escape From New York or Cliff Robertson in its follow-up, Escape From L.A. Limiting our consideration to the 20th and 21st centuries -- sorry, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (and let's not forget the low-budget knockoff, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies) -- I think the winner for action Presidents would have to be Bill Pullman in Independence Day, even over FDR: American Badass! The exclamation point, by the way, is actually part of the title. I'm also excluding Ronald Reagan, who actually made a few "action movies," as defined in their day, because he didn't really play a President in them, just settled for actually becoming one some decades after the demise of his acting career.
Of course, there's no clue in director Antoine Fuqua's Olympus Has Fallen as to what Eckhart's "President Benjamin Asher" did before his presidency, or even which party he belongs to. But, while he has his share of tense scenes involving shootings, knifings, and Secretary of Defense beatings, it's not really his movie. The film is really about ex Secret Service agent Mike Banning, played by Gerard Butler, desperately trying to disguise his Scottish accent, and being generally successful at it.
Mike has not been so successful guarding the First Family, and so was relieved of his duty, but now has a second chance, as he is trapped inside the White House walls when Kang and his henchmen invade and threaten the President and the First Kid. If it sounds reminiscent of the original Die Hard, there are indeed thematic similarities, such as the central idea of one man caught in an occupied building, occasionally trading threats and wisecracks with the head terrorist over a walkie during lulls in the carnage. Of course, Die Hard didn't have Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and Robert Forster -- as the Speaker of the House, the head of the Secret Service, and the Chief of the Joint Chiefs, respectively -- as a background chorus to cheer the hero on, and I've got to admit it is indeed an impressive cast, which also includes Ashley Judd as the First Lady, Dylan McDermott as another former Secret Service agent and also Mike's friend, and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo as the scrappiest Secretary of Defense ever seen onscreen, or off, for that matter.
The first act will knock your socks off. The sheer brazenness and bloodthirstiness of the initial attack on the White House is jaw-dropping and horrifying, in the same sense as watching national landmarks (not to mention populations) vaporized in Independence Day. Such an attack on American soil, even after Pearl Harbor and 9/11, is so unthinkable that it's not implausible that we could be taken by surprise yet a third time. Afterwards, the film becomes a little less spectacular, as the action shifts to more one-on-one confrontations as Mike sneaks around the corpse-littered White House hallways and offices trying to rescue the President, encountering sporadic North Korean terrorists.
If you've managed to forget the horror of Sandy Hook enough to once again find slaughter entertaining, director Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur and Brooklyn's Finest) delivers up one of the tightest and most spectacular action movies in years, all for a comparatively economical $70 million. As silly as it all ultimately is, we can only hope that Hollywood screenwriters continue to be craftier than real-life terrorists.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
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Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: email@example.com.
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