In terms of real life, the White House has only been penetrated by attackers once, during the War of 1812 when it was damaged during the burning of Washington. Although the first family had to leave hastily, it was about this time in September of 1812 when President Madison returned to the damaged edifice to demonstrate that the United States would not concede to such assaults. On the silver screen, attacks on the President in the White House make for good action plots. A fairly recent example is “Olympus Has Fallen,” from 2013, a successful outing that has spawned a sequel about to be produced entitled, “London Has Fallen.”
In “Olympus Has Fallen,” Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, who heads the U.S. President’s (played by Aaron Eckhart) secret service detail. The president and his family like and trust Mike. But one evening over the Christmas holidays, there is a car accident during an ice storm, which results in the death of the first lady (played by Ashley Judd). Although Mike had prevented the accident from claiming even more victims, he feels guilty about not saving the first lady, and the President finds it difficult to work with him. Several months later, he is working at a desk job with the U.S. treasury department, not far from the executive mansion. The president has a meeting with the South Korean Prime Minister, whose aide has planned an attack on the White House. Observing the attack from nearby, Mike rushes to help. He survives a big shootout and finds himself in the White House and, given his insider knowledge of the house’s strengths and weaknesses, he is the only person who can possibly save the day. As the terrorists hold the president and several other people hostage, the Speaker of the House (played by Morgan Freeman) assumes the job of president.
Like many action films of the 1990s, “Olympus Has Fallen” follows the “Die Hard” formula. The movie has many great action scenes. These scenes show that Mike is skilled in hand to hand combat, as well as with weapons.
Gerard Butler is excellent as the movie’s hero. He makes Mike a likeable but determined guy. Equally strong is Melissa Leo, who plays the Secretary of Defense, who is held hostage with the president.
“Olympus Has Fallen” is a good choice for fans of old-school action films.