The first of this year's White House under siege flicks hits the cinemas. But is this the action movie you want to see or should you wait for White House Down? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his official review of Olympus Has Fallen.
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua Written By: Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt Runtime: 120 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R
Mike Banning - Gerard Butler President Benjamn Asher - Aaron Eckhart Speaker Alan Trumbull - Morgan Freeman Lynne Jacobs - Angela Bassett Kang - Rick Yune Dave Forbes - Dermot Mulroney Secretary Ruth McMillan - Melissa Leo General Clegg - Robert Forster Agent Roma - Cole Hauser Leah Banning - Rahda Mitchell Margaret Asher - Ashley Judd Connor Asher - Finley Jacobsen
Olympus Has Fallen seems to be of the sort of dying breed action movies these days. Action flicks that were high concept and high octane with leading men who donít look like fresh faced little boys. There is another movie of the same concept, that being a White House under siege by terrorists, coming out this year. That movie will be White House Down starring Channing Tatum as the plucky hero and Jamie Foxx as the United States President. Sorry movie gods, but this time I will have to take Gerard Butler as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning instead. Olympus Has Fallen is not of an original sort. Heck the plot is basically a movie version of a multi-episode arc from season 7 of 24 and probably sounds quite familiar to lovers of Vince Flynnís series of Mitch Rapp novels. But when you get down to it the basic pitch of the movie is that this movie is essentially Die Hard in the White House. And once you accept that, the movie is actually a lot of fun, and a roaring good time.
Butler is the tough, but likable Secret Service agent, Mike Banning. Heís buddies with the equally likable and charismatic President Asher (Eckhart), who is even more likable because heís married and still in love with his wife Margaret (Judd), and heís got a young son Connor (Jacobsen) who is buddies with Mike. Unfortunately one night on a drive in some harsh weather to a fundraiser everything goes terribly wrong and the night ends in tragedy. Margaret dies the dutiful Mike has to live with the shame of saving the presidentís life but failing to save the first lady. Banningís now miserable and stuck at a desk job, even so far as refusing to attend 4th of July BBQís with his hot nurse wife Leah (Mitchell). Fortunately for Mike but not so fortunate for America, all that is about to change.
North Korea is on the verge of civil war with South Korea, and the United States is figuring out what they will do and what their role will be considering they donít want to lose South Korea. When the President is set to meet the South Korean prime minister, an incognito C-130 piloted by North Koreans infiltrates United States airspace and violently attacks Washington D.C. and takes out the White Houseís main defenses. Radical North Korean Extremists then attack on the ground and surgically strike the White House taking out all the security on the premises and capturing President Asher in the underground bunker. Their leader, Kang (Rick Yune), is a no nonsense extreme North Korean loyalist who is demanding the US pull out all of their military presence from Korea or else. But thatís not his only motive, with the group heís taken captive, including the President, he plans on hacking their nuclear launch system to create virtual Armageddon. Luckily Banning is on the case, and with his inside knowledge and perspective of having worked for the Presidentís protection detail, heís the only man who can rescue the President and stop the terrorists. And thatís all you really need to know in terms of plot.
As a director Antoine Fuqua has always had a good eye for action and how to shoot it. Thereís no shortage of big time action sequences. They are border line over the top at times, but he evens things out by creating some brutal and arresting carnage such as when the Washington Monument is taken out and innocent bystanders are helplessly mowed down. This movie has a hard R-rating and it is not afraid to show it. Fuqua lets us see the action and doesnít overuse handheld camera work and quick cuts. The fight scenes are fast, quick, and deadly.
The story is overall pretty predictable, but again, this is your basic Die Hard plot. In fact this movie easily couldíve been a Die Hard sequel. That being said, the movie is overall better than the last two Die Hard films especially A Good Day to Die Hard.
Butler is good in this role. His American accent always sounds a little weird, but at least he looks believable fighting bad guys and dealing with these situations unlike being forced to stomach the likes of Channing Tatum as Duke in G.I. Joe., not to mention Marlon Wayans. The supporting cast is filled out by pretty able familiar faces. Morgan Freeman gets to play the President againÖof sorts. Since President Asher is out of commission that makes Morganís Speaker of the House Alan Trumbull the active sitting President. This is your basic Morgan Freeman here playing Morgan Freeman. So itís not bad, and Freeman has some fun one-liners but this is basically his ďtake a paycheckĒ role. Now donít get me wrong, I donít take issue with that. Even Morgan Freeman basically phoning it in is better than most talent Hollywood tries to pass off as ďactorsĒ on their best day. But even at the press conference for the movie, Freeman had difficulty remembering the name of the character he played. Again thatís fine since this isnít exactly Million Dollar Baby or Unforgiven here, and there is nothing wrong with that. The situation room is rounded out by the likes of Banningís supportive boss Lynne Jacobs (Bassett) and the hard-nosed military General Clegg (Forster). So now you basically have Bassett playing the Sgt. Al Powell role and Forster in the Dwayne T. Robinson role.
Now I've never agreed with the phrase ďcheck your brain at the door.Ē I think this is an enjoyable, action romp of which appears to be a dying breed. Is it a little silly and unbelievable at times? Yes. At times the dialogue is a bit forced and the things the terrorists are able to do and have access to are a little far-fetched. There are a few subplots that could be interesting or the ideas sound contrived and when a character attempts to question them, the explanations are given in a haphazard manner. And then they seem to just be brushed aside entirely. But, overall this is a pretty entertaining action movie of the type we rarely see these days. So if you want to see an action movie thatís more in the spirit of classic Die Hard than Die Hard 5, thatís very well made and has tons of familiar A-list talent running around, time to check out Olympus Has Fallen this weekend and leave Channing Tatum to Magic Mike and The Vow where he belongs.
The 411: Olympus Has Fallen is a well built action thriller of the type we are seeing less and less of these days. Gerard Butler plays a convincing badass and the only man who can save the President and the fate of the country lies in his hands. Now to people who would scoff at what actually takes place here and the idea of terrorists taking control of the White House in under fifteen minutes, just remember, this is fiction. It's make believe. But that in no way takes the fun out of this movie. Director Antoine Fuqua shoots good action and he isn't afraid to get messy. If you enjoy 1980's and 90's action films, and you can appreciate the genius in Air Force One, Olympus Has Fallen is your action destination for this weekend.