“Olympus Has Fallen,” opening Friday, is a high-concept, patriotic action picture starring the rugged Gerard Butler (“300”), who also produced. At the movie’s center is an act of theatrical political terror — the siege of the White House and the hostage-taking of the President — perpetrated by North Korea, which with its recent real-life stream of apocalyptic threats to the U.S. homeland, appears to be acting almost as an unofficial marketing partner of the film’s producers.
The movie’s specific choice of villains is less important than what the attack at the story’s center represents, according to Mr. Butler.
“We made a point about not making it about North Korea,” Mr. Butler told The Washington Times last week in an interview. “These bad guys could have been from the Middle East, could have been from an African country. They could have been from anywhere. The point is it’s an attack on the freedom and sovereignty of America.”
It’s also an attack designed to create an opportunity for satisfying cinematic revenge. Mr. Butler plays a lone Secret Service agent who infiltrates the White House during the siege, taking the fight to the terrorists from the inside. It’s surprisingly brutal at times, a hard-R action film that evokes some of the tougher, gruffer action movies of the 1980s.
For Mr. Butler, the movie’s edge was part of the point. It’s not just a movie about efficiently taking out terrorist bad guys. It’s a movie about making them pay. The feeling he wanted to evoke was that the movie’s villains “need to be eradicated — but also hurt as well. It’s that feeling — that we wanted to make these guys suffer.”
Mr. Butler defends the movie’s flag-waving — literal and figurative — patriotism as a key element of its emotional payoff and a necessary component of a movie that places an important national symbol in jeopardy.
“If any movie ever deserved to be patriotic and fly the flag every now and then,” he said, “it’s this one. We pushed it to the extremes of the sort of kicking America could take.”