OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
***1/2 (out of 5)
March 22, 2013
Gerard Butler as MIKE BANNING
Aaron Eckhart as PRESIDENT BENJAMIN ASHER
Morgan Freeman as SPEAKER TRUMBULL
Finley Jacobson as CONNOR
Dylan McDermott as FORBES
Rick Yune as KANG
Angela Bassett as LYNN JACOBS
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Throughout the 90s, any time an action film came out, people tried to describe it as a “Die Hard” film. For example, “Under Siege” was “Die Hard on a Boat.” “Passenger 57” was “Die Hard on a Plane.” That formula has been resurrected this year with Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” which is essential “Die Hard at the White House.”
I find it odd that “Olympus Has Fallen” actually delivers a more “Die Hard” feeling film than the latest “A Good Day to Die Hard” did. I think part of this is because “Olympus Has Fallen” actually had something to prove while the folks behind “A Good Day to Die Hard” were just cashing a paycheck.
(Confession time… that’s not to say I hated “A Good Day to Die Hard.” I thought it was a fun action flick, but it was not the same as the original film from the 80s… but then again, none of the sequels ever are.)
“Olympus Has Fallen” tells the story of secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), who used to be on the President’s detail until a freak accident caused him to save the life of the President but not the First Lady. Taking a lesser job at the Treasury, Banning is trying to get back into the Presidential detail, but there’s too much bad feelings there.
When the South Korean ambassador makes a diplomatic visit to the White House, rogue North Korean militants in the mix lead an assault on the property. Soon, they decimate the White House defenses and take the President – and key members of his cabinet – hostage. Banning finds a way into the White House and becomes the country’s only hope to stop the terrorists.
The first thing you’ll notice in this film once it gets rolling is that it’s not even trying to make a PG-13 rated cut, and I can respect that. Fuqua has never been a soft and cuddly director, and his movies often feature some pretty hard core violence. He set out to make a brutally violent action movie, and he succeeds.
The strength of this film is Fuqua’s handling of the explosive action sequences and his ability to keep the tension high throughout the two-hour running time. He has a great cast, with Butler delivers a strong performance as the pull-no-punches action hero. Aaron Eckhart plays soft as the kidnapped President, but he’s held up by Melissa Leo in a biting performance as the Secretary of Defense.
The rest of the supporting cast outside of the White House has some excellent actors in it as well, including Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Robert Forster. Even though the story is utterly preposterous and silly, the cast takes it as seriously as they can, which helps carry the film as an audience-pleasing button-pusher.
Of course, as I said, the events in this movie are beyond ludicrous. From the moment a massive bomber flies over Chesapeake Bay and into Washington D.C. airspace with almost no resistance, it’s a horse-pill of disbelief to swallow. The plot points and twists get sillier and sillier, painting the villainous North Korean radicals as military geniuses while the American military has their collective heads up their collective asses.
However, you need this to make the film work. And that’s a comforting thought, actually. I would have serious concerns about my homeland security if a middling director could make a film about the infiltration and occupation of the White House that makes me think it could actually happen. Like “Air Force One,” there’s a certain comfort knowing that at least what a run-of-the-mill Hollywood screenwriter could come up with wouldn’t work in the real world.