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Olympus falls over a fact

March 26, 2013, at 8:07 AM
 

After giving the Secret Service a hard time last week, here's something remarkable to think about. Not once, in the history of the Service, has a member of a protective detail ever betrayed his mission or her conscience. Not once. Ever. There are no Aldrich Ameses, Robert Hanssens, no Ronald Peltons or Earl Pitts. More than 110 years of treason-free protection. 

So why does almost every movie about the Secret Service rely on such a betrayal to advance the plot?

Olympus Has Fallen, written and directed by Antoine Fuqua, is an entertaining thriller. I enjoyed it. It won't spoil the plot to say that one key Secret Service agent switches sides at some point, which gives the bad guy access to White House security secrets. The writer made this choice because the bad guys somehow had to find a way to penetrate the security perimeter. Yes, a Secret Service agent is the hero of the movie, too. But the reason the agent who betrays country situates himself thusly is very conventional: something about big banks and campaign contributions and corruption.

Olympus is not a character study, and it's hard to do a movie that pulls together the elements needed to get butts in the seats as well as the time and dialogue needed to put the viewer inside the mind of a Secret Service agent on the Presidential Protective Detail. In the Line of Fire (1993) came close, but most PPD agents I've encountered aren't haunted by the Kennedy assassination. 

To me, the most remarkable thing about the Ahmadinejad incident is the fact that the Service guards the President of Iran in the first place. Agents assigned to the detail will take a bullet as readily for him as they would for the Prime Minister of Israel or even the President of the United States. Get inside the head of THOSE agents, and make a movie about THAT!

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

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