Netflix: destroying the White House in the palm of your hand

February 3, 2014

So I got a Netflix subscription.

And a Netflix app on my mobile phone.

And the app is nice and simple and personalised and remembers where you’ve got to in whatever you’re watching.

The trouble is there isn’t really anything I want to watch. The list of titles is narrow and mainly mainstream US movies and TV.

So I ended up watching “Olympus Has Fallen” as I couldn’t find anything else. Sometimes you just want to watch things being blown up.

This is very violent, macho, patriotic “shoot ‘em up”, one of those post 9/11 movies where the subtext (the US working through its trauma at those horrible shocking events) is so obvious its not really a subtext. The Washington Monument gets attacked and falls down in a very similar way to the Twin Towers.

The tone is set in the very first scene where the US President and his loyal secret service bodyguard are sparring i.e. beating each other up, in Camp David. Gerard Butler is the bodyguard, and he takes John Wayne role, the lone hero killing a very large number of evil Koreans who storm and destroy the Whitehouse. The body count is high. The brutality, unflinching. While it’s nice to see Melissa Leo (one of the stars of the first couple of series of Homicide) still getting work, it’s not particularly nice to see her getting beaten up by evil Koreans.

The film did take a strange kind of pleasure in reducing the White House to rubble. At one point Gerard kills an evil Korean by using a bust of Washington that happens to be handy. The violence is more important than the building (a theatre of war indeed).

One shouldn’t take this kind of thing too seriously. But I did wonder. What exactly am I doing carrying around this tiny black box watching in fits and starts this entertainment which endorses and celebrates a culture and country so far away, so different from the rain sogged English landscape? These tiny figures matchstick men and women, killing each other in the palm of my hand. Does that distance the violence and the patriotism and make it easier to swallow?

A little box, made in the US, pumping out the message that the United States is the best country in the world, but to keep it that way blood has to be spilt. I suspect I would like this film less in a big theatre…

Still, I watched it all. And I couldn’t work out how to turn the subtitles on.


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