Olympus Has Fallen
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell
Running Time: 1 hr 59 mins
Due Out: August 13, 2013
PLOT: After the White House is overtaken by terrorists, former secret service agent Mike Banning (Butler) is the only man left to save the president of the United States (Eckhart) and stop the terrorists from achieving their plot.
WHO’S IT FOR? While it’s by no means great, if an America loving, action-packed Die Hard riff sounds good, you could do worse than Olympus Has Fallen. Gerard Butler fans should also be pleased by the actor at his badass best.
Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Olympus Has Fallen. It really doesn’t get much more American than this. The film opens with the title bearing the colors of the American flag, and there are no less than five flags on screen within the first three minutes. The jingoism is out in full force on this one. The “Rah-rah Go America!” feeling and blatant xenophobia that courses through this film’s veins is problematic and grows a bit tiresome – though the (admittedly on the nose) shot of the terrorists throwing the American flag off the White House is rather effective. Nevertheless, Antoine Fuqua has made a very entertaining, very violent action film.
Speaking of the violence, boy does this thing earn its R rating. The effective attack scene that kicks off the plot is a very bloody affair with countless pedestrians and security men getting gunned down. It’s excessive, but to the film’s credit it doesn’t shy away from actually showing the bloody aftermath. Things do not let up once Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning heads into the White House. While guns are used throughout, knives are the real star. I remember jokes about the stabbing being popular back when the film was in theaters. Even so, I was still surprised by how much that method was used throughout the film. Like nearly everything else, it ends up feeling a bit excessive, but it’s a decent change of pace.
Back to that initial attack scene, it really is a viscerally thrilling action sequence. After 25 minutes of “character development,” things ramp up big time when a large high tech plane enters the White House no-fly zone. The film has a poor CGI problem, and this sequence is not immune. (I will admit the shoddy CG is one aspect that almost becomes charming as the film progresses.) Still, the way the scene is put together and the sheer carnage on display is exciting. It also shows us that the terrorists mean business by gunning down a bunch of faceless civilians before turning Old Glory into Swiss cheese and taking out the Washington Monument. It’s easily my favorite sequence in the film.
All of the action and fight scenes are handled well, though. Much of that is to Butler’s credit. I’ve never been much of a Butler fan, so it’s not the highest of praise when I say this is probably the most I’ve liked him. He’s a good deal of fun as the sarcastic one man secret service, not shy about stabbing a guy in the head or busting out profanity-laced quips (“Classified? Really? Well, right now I think I have the proverbial need to fuckin’ know,” being a particular standout). I put quotes around character development earlier because the film certainly doesn’t make it a priority. Despite that, Butler manages to create a semi-affecting camaraderie with Finley Jacobsen (playing Cody Asher, the president’s son). The rest of the cast doesn’t get a ton to do. Dylan McDermott does his crazy Dylan McDermott thing to good effect and Rick Yune is imposing enough as the chief terrorist. Aaron Eckhart as President Asher spends much of the film as a hostage, so he’s underused. Eckhart does manage to add some gravitas to the role anyway. And Morgan Freeman gives a reliable, authoritative performance as Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull. Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Radha Mitchell, and Ashley Judd (in what amounts to little more than a cameo) all lend credibility to their various roles but little else.
By no means a great movie – nor a great DVD package as there are no special features whatsoever – Fuqua, his cast, and his writers (Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt) certainly made an entertaining one. If nothing else, Olympus Has Fallen makes a decent case for becoming a candidate for any red, white, and blue blooded American’s annual Fourth of July marathon.
MOVIE SCORE: 6/10