Olympus Has Fallen
dir. Antoine Fuqua
Release Date: Mar 22, 13
Olympus Has Fallen is exactly what you expect it to be, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s an action movie by all definitions, one that harkens back to the most memorable action films of the 1990s, and for exactly the same reasons. The movie is filled with outrageous action sequences that would make Michael Bay blush. It has a hero that wins despite the odds against him. It’s filled with one-liners and cheesy dialogue that will make you both laugh and cringe. And it has a topical villain that can be exploited to great effect. This is all wrapped up in a film by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter), so you know that it will do the action right. If you’re excited about any of the above, then Olympus is for you.
We’re introduced to the characters in a rather peaceful scene, with President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his family getting ready to attend a benefit dinner. Through this, you meet Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a Secret Service agent assigned to the Presidential Detail. A tragic accident occurs, leading to the removal of Banning from his role in the Secret Service, working a desk job 18 months later. The film truly begins, though, when a North Korean terrorist group launches an assault that somehow takes over the White House and captures the President and much of his staff in 13 minutes. This leads to the rise of Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) as President of the United States (first the President, then God, now the President) and the eventual isolation of Banning as the only “good guy” left in the White House, with the goal of somehow saving the day in the wake of the woefully incompetent military forces and leaders that take charge after the initial attack. The rest of the movie’s two hours is marked by quick action sequences, moderately successful quips and little to no realism despite the frequent grittiness.
If you’re looking for solid storytelling, you should look elsewhere. Olympus boasts a shoestring plot to move the film between bursts of violence. This works, but offers nothing new to a field filled with action movie clones. Olympus Has Fallen is a tour de force of CGI explosions and gritty fighting scenes, and I would be remiss if I didn’t draw similarities between Banning and Die Hard’s John McClane. Gerard Butler is fantastic in the role of a cocky badass who ends up becoming almost lovable. He pulls off the balance of somehow knowing how to be a killing machine when he needs to and the comic relief when it’s required. I’m not saying that every bit of comic relief was successful, but you leave the theater remembering the character and wanting to see more, and that’s something.
The rest of the cast is hit and miss. Morgan Freeman is great as the role of Speaker of the House/President when he’s trying to be comforting, but when he has to make snap decisions, he’ll lose you. The writing of the military tactics scenes just defies basic logic, as everything seems too easy for the North Koreans and any attempts to stop them by the military are easily swatted away. When Freeman is delivering these lines, you can almost hear the disappointment in his voice. Speaking of disappointing, let’s talk about Eckhart, who was dismal for the most part. He carries no sense of urgency throughout, and his role basically handicaps him from bring anything but the captive that the hero needs to save.
Olympus Has Fallen is a disappointment when you look at it any other way outside of sheer action porn, which probably explains the poor acting by some really great actors. Where this movie shines like gold is when it reaches the straight-up fun action scenes littered throughout. You never want for another action-heavy scene, because the film doesn’t allow it. You’re constantly assaulted with explosions, well-choreographed action scenes and general chaos. There are a lot of action films out there, and sure this has all been done before, but that’s not the point. If you’re looking for a movie that will make you nostalgic for the action films of the past, in the best possible way, look no further.