That pretty much sums up one of the most brainless action flicks I’ve seen in a long time. Tough guy Gerard Butler plays a US Secret Service agent who single-handedly saves the day. This movie pretty much defines the genre which I now affectionately call “bike trainer movie” since, when I’m on the bike trainer, I really only have enough concentration capacity to watch a film which pretty much strings action sequences together with the absolute bare minimum of plot, dialogue, and character development.
Set in present-day America, Harvey Dent is the president and King Leonidas of Sparta is on his personal security detail. While driving through the snow, stuff happens and the president’s wife dies when her car falls off a bridge. The president’s life is saved by the spartan but since he couldn’t also save his wife, he feels responsible and tormented by this event. Fast forward some number of years, and he is no longer on the president’s personal security detail, since he was obviously traumatised by the events of that day. A bunch of North Korean terrorists infiltrate the White House and take the President hostage.
The story is pretty freakin’ obvious from here on. After an initial stand off with on-site secret service and military which basically ends with all the good guys getting killed, our lone hero has to single-handedly take on a well-trained and well-organised terrorist force defending a secure location. First he has to find the president’s son and get him out (he does), then make his way down to the bunker and get the president out (he does). There, I’ve just spoiled the whole movie for you. You can thank me later.
Although the film’s writers make a small effort to make the secret service agents seem a little bit more 3D than mere redshirts by including conversations about their kids and mortgages, there’s really no question of what’s going to happen to everyone except for our hero. In going to this effort, they have however constructed one of the few believable elements in the whole movie. Pretty much everything else that happens is impossible. Maybe I’ve watched The West Wing too closely, but there’s pretty much no way that the events of this film could unfold as they did.
Impressively, almost every detail was utterly unbelievable. I say impressively because in a terrorist operation with such complexity, the film’s writers would be expected to at least accidentally stumble on something which could conceivably happen. Perhaps they should be writing for the fantasy scifi genre, since they seem ill-equipped to write for anything that happens in the real world. Even the characters are poorly-developed right down to the president who is laughably one-dimensional, and even more obviously so because we know that Aaron Eckart can bring a complex character to life.
As a side note, I was (predictably) appalled at certain undertones in the movie. Although it was refreshing that the terrorists were not from some random middle-eastern country, their depiction of North Koreans spoke volumes about their understanding of the world. The first and most obvious thing is that none of the actors chosen to depict the terrorists looked particularly Korean. Either the filmmakers actually believe that all asians look the same, or they thought that the audience was stupid enough to not know the difference. Sadly, both are probably true. I realise authenticity wasn’t a priority in creating this film, but apart from the idea of one person taking on a small army and winning, this was one of the most strikingly unbelievable things in a film full of strikingly unbelievable things.
Go ahead and watch it. I wouldn’t recommend paying for it. If more films like this come out, there’s going to be conspiracy theories that manufacturers of blanks and squibs, and pyrotechnics companies have taken over hollywood and are using it to further their businesses. On second thought… don’t watch it, you probably have better things to do, even on an airplane.