Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Dylan McDermott, Angela Basset, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Cole Hauser
Plot: The White House is attacked by North Korean terrorists and the President (Eckhart) is kidnapped. A disgraced Secret Services Agent (Butler) is the only man standing between the Koreans and the destruction of America.
There are two different reactions to Olympus Has Fallen. One is a pretty decent one. This is essentially Die Hard in the White House. A group of sadistic bad guys (and the first half of this film is particular gripping by how efficient the Korean terrorists are, when it comes to the killing of the President’s armed guard), kidnap the President and one lone man, trapped in the building, is charged with taking down the bad guys and saving the USA. Seeing as Die Hard 5 let us down with a spectacular nose-dive from great to garbage, there is a high demand for this film. The lovers of Olympus Has Fallen are the ones who desperately want that good Die Hard sequel and are prepared to squint and imagine that Butler could almost pass for Willis. However, the louder of the critics, are the ones that hate this film with a passion. Olympus Has Fallen does come across as a B Movie from Seagal, that lucked out with a rich investor. The emphasis is on ‘Long Live America’ (even if most of the movie’s plot comes from a lack of proper security protocols from the American government), and the gung-ho stupidity of the action might cause some people to pull their hair out.
My expectations were low when I came into this movie. While it isn’t as incredibly dumb as I believed it would be, it does have a nasty habit of jumping from intelligent plotting to rookie mistakes from the writers. On the good side, the actual invasion of the White House is incredible. As I said, the Koreans are great baddies, ruthlessly executing civilians and guards, and shooting the corpses in the head to make sure, conjuring up this image of the perfect nemesis for Butler. Even better is the fact that the idea that the White House could be taken is actually depicted credibly. Sure, there are a few question marks here and there, but I was expecting gaping plot holes, not minor inconveniences. However, as I said, there are some idiotic mistakes here and there. It almost becomes fun to figure out where the next cock-up will come from. Two news reports spell the White House as Whitehouse. There is the pointless addition of subtitles explaining who everyone is and the time being splashed across certain scenes, even though there is no particular need to know that tid-bit of information. It also suffers from clinging onto Die Hard too tightly. From the Christmas opening to the back-and-forth banter between the hero and villain over a walkie talkie, there are just too many little references to the film Olympus Has Fallen longs to be. The audience want to watch a copycat Die Hard, yes, but they don’t want to be continuously reminded that this movie has been done before. All the copycat quirks do is pull the audience out of the action and remind them that we have all seen this sort of film done a lot better before.
My problem with Olympus Has Fallen stems from a much larger problem however: thinly written characters. Everyone on the cast does their jobs well, but they aren’t asked to do enough. Morgan Freeman, the heavyweight on the cast list, is asked to sit on a desk and deliver exposition. Rick Yune’s bad guy has potential, but is trapped with no personality or quirks to make him stick out. Eckhart is asked to do that same ‘nice-guy-politician’ he does a lot and Radha Mitchell continues her trend of being an amazing actress, who is always trapped on the side-lines doing nothing. Dylan McDermott has the potential to be the most interesting character, but his backstory isn’t so much thinly written, as not even brought up completely. I never understood the character and his addition to the story ended up doing nothing for me. Some could even go as far as accusing Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning as being an empty character. True, his hero is so bland and simple that it really does stick Olympus Has Fallen into Die Hard wannabe territory, but at least the fun comes from him. Butler, for the first time in memory, actually handles an accent with credibility. He is efficient at the fighting, delivers his lines with the intense dedication this American propaganda needs and can do the small emotional flashes well, without slowing down the pace. Also, with this kind of movie, it is usually the supporting cast’s job to bring the depth, suggesting that Butler’s character is the only one doing his job adequately.
But I liked Olympus Has Fallen. It does the job it is meant to do. Sure, this film screams ‘America!’, but that isn’t as distracting as everyone makes out; it is just finding your target audience. The action is competent and the tension is always there. I got the sense that Banning could very well be taken out by this efficient bad guys. The final skirmish between Banning and the head Korean is done well, the choreography tight and unpredictable. Olympus Has Fallen also features a grittiness, not usually seen in summer blockbusters like this. Knives are stabbed into the skull and women are punched in the stomach and shot in the head. It makes this movie a tough watch, but it also shows a level of maturity, which doubles as a trick to make the bad guys seem that little bit more nasty. All Olympus Has Fallen needed was a few more drafts and fleshing out, sadly rushed due to the release of Emmerich’s similar movie, White House Down, coming out shortly afterwards.
Final Verdict: It needed a polish, but Olympus Has Fallen suits as a decent action movie, especially for those who craved a better Die Hard 5.