I have to admit I get frustrated from time to time with the current political climate of our country. The animosity, the dishonesty, the politicking. All the bad things constantly reported by the media; it’s almost enough to make someone just throw up their hands in defeat, to give up hope that any change with come. I hear comments from strangers, almost daily, that our country is headed down the tubes, that we’re done. That a nation once worth being proud of is just … doomed. Doomed for our ethnocentric imperialism, doomed for our American arrogance, doomed for our general stupidity… take your pick. They all have a list of reasons.
Interestingly enough, wrapped somewhere in the midst of its brutal, graphic violence and general destruction, the movie Olympus Has Fallen offered me a little reminder NOT to lose hope. (Talk about a dichotomy…) It offered a reminder that all those “reasons” people give do not decide our future or the future of this country.
As I’ve mentioned before, occasionally a film comes along that takes you by surprise. Olympus Has Fallen is just such a film. Oh, it’s still unrealistic and predictable on an obvious plot level, but underneath, in what might have been an intentional subtext, there is a realness to it that is sobering. What I thought would be nothing more than a popcorn-munching-type action flick was in fact deeply thought-provoking.
The plot, in a nutshell, goes like this: foreign terrorists strategically plan and execute an attack on the White House that annihilates all security protocols and personnel, except for one lone, regret-filled, former-Secret Service officer named Mike Banning. After an emotionally overwhelming scene in which they kill hundreds and destroy a good part of the White House, the terrorists take the President hostage, and make demands of the standing cabinet and military leaders of our country. It is almost uncomfortable to watch as the terrorists swarm the White House area and mechanically mow down line after line of defense, destroying that which the world thought indestructible.
It’s unthinkable to believe that such a breach could happen in real life, but there, in the middle of the scene, I turned to the person on my left and said — Is this symbolic?
Not a minute later the person on my right turned to me and whispered — It’s an allegory!
Literary semantics aside, it was clear we were all pondering the same thing at that moment.
That scene could have happened at a hundred different locations – and has in various films – but what made it so shocking, so compelling was that it was happening to the White House. Much more than just a house for our first family, it is a symbol of our government, of what America represents, of our past freedoms… and our secure future. And there it was, under attack, and failing in front of our very eyes.
Making his way through the carnage left by the terrorists, former Agent Banning followed his instincts and training directly into the White House, doing his utmost to save the President even though it was no longer his job. With focus and efficiency he kills the many terrorists he encounters and sets about to save the President, the first-son Connor and, ultimately, the entire nation. In a quiet moment with Connor he claims he, too, is afraid, but he never shows it. Instead, he seems to have found his path to redemption, and makes the most of the opportunity. At that point in the film, Banning was no longer Secret Service. As a Treasury agent, he wasn’t even stationed in the White House anymore, having been banished because his very presence was a painful reminder of a difficult decision. He had made the right decision, but he was still in career – and emotional – exile. And yet, much like another action hero I’ve mentioned, he charged immediately to the defense of those who needed it.
So what’s my point in all this?
There are several moments in the film where crooked and damaged portraits of our Founding Fathers overlook the action happening, as though watching the destruction of all they had worked for and believed in. It was more than just the halls they had walked that were under attack, but the freedoms they had fought for. It made me wonder how they would feel about the state of things today. To me, the White House in this film represents our country; not just a building, but all the ideals and values this nation was founded upon. And whether we see the bullets flying, or can put a face to the attackers, one could argue that those values, those ideals, are very much under attack.
Well, yeah, you might say, we know that. Or maybe you think that is a tad over-dramatic.
Either way, I believe that we are, in a sense, supposed to be like Agent Banning.
We might not possess the skills and training he did to physically defend the White House and all it symbolizes, but are we any less responsible than those physically guarding our leaders for their well-being and for the future of our country?
In watching this film, I was reminded how important it is to be engaged in the civic process. To vote. To write. To petition. To make sure voices of truth and honor are heard.
But more than anything, I was reminded how important it is to pray for our leaders.
Regardless of party affiliation, we have an obligation to pray for the leaders of our country. And, with it, an opportunity to be unmovable, unfailing agents of defense for our country, just like Banning was for the White House. Turns out that, in trying to save the President, he actually saved the entire country from annihilation. So we might be praying for one man or one woman, or one Congress, but it is arguable that in their decisions rests the future of every citizen of this country. In praying for the one, we might just be saving the rest.
As such, instead of complaining about our leaders or agreeing with the nay-sayers and agitators, we should commit our concerns to our Heavenly Father, who, incidentally, is the only One who can actually do anything about them.
At the end of Olympus Has Fallen, President Asher addresses the nation and declares that it is a new day. A day for America to rise again. A day to stand against those trying to foul our country and destroy our freedoms. A day to rebuild, not just the White House, but the ideals that built our wonderful country. A day that marks a rebirth of dignity, integrity and honor.
Interestingly enough, today is the day our country celebrates Easter — or in our household, Resurrection Day. A day of newness. A day of Life. A day where Truth was resurrected. And so, in that moment of the film, I agreed with that fictitious president, and prayed that today IS a new day. A day when integrity and honor become the norm, not the exception, in our government. A day where those trying to foul our government and remove our freedoms are thwarted. A day where our leaders act for the good of people rather than the bottom line. A day where Love changes hearts and Truth reigns. A day where His Kingdom comes and His will is done.
Because I love this country, I am grateful for the reminder Olympus Has Fallen provided. So I’ll be praying more for my leaders, and remembering that even in the middle of desperate circumstances, hope is alive because Jesus is alive.
[Jesus is] “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:21
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18
If you have any comments, please post them below. I can’t promise I’ll respond immediately, but I’d love to know what you think on this subject…
Olympus Has Fallen, 2013
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, & Angela Bassett
Copyright: Film District