Things I Learned From… Olympus Has Fallen

I dunno. You wait years for a ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie, and then two come along at once! It’s surprising it’s taken this long for someone to have this idea, of course. It’s a location that’s broadly familiar to audiences around the world, with huge stakes, and you can keep the conflict small and contained, or expand out into a wider military response, as you wish.

But actually, what I walked away from Olympus Has Fallen thinking was – it’s so easy to fall into the trap of ‘movie logic’.

Movie logic is that brand of logic espoused only by people bound by the conventions of a story. Minor characters who protect the protagonist because of some apparent instinct that he’s more important than they are. Women who fall for the hero on sight for no reason whatsoever. And people who make decisions no one in a real-world position of authority would ever make.

No government would change a crucial element of foreign policy to save the life of a kidnapped leader – especially given that kidnap victims usually end up dead even if the kidnappers get what they want. Consequently, no halfway intelligent terrorist would assume that holding a gun to the President’s head would achieve his ends. It makes the movie unbelievable –

But even worse, it makes it predictable. If all the characters are going to act according to movie logic, we know exactly what they’re going to do next. After all, we’ve all seen enough movies!

Breaking the dictates of movie logic – asking yourself ‘What would this character actually do in these circumstances in the real world?’ – is a short cut to more interesting and unpredictable story twists, and for that reason alone, it’s worth embracing.