06th Apr2013

‘Olympus Has Fallen’ Review

by Dan Clark

Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser | Written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt | Directed by Antoine Fuqua

olympus-cast

For the last few decades there have been a number of action movies that followed the Die Hard  formula. Films like Speed were successful enough to etch out their own place in the genre lore, while others were simple exercises in mediocrity. The latest example of this phenomenon is the action thriller Olympus Has Fallen. While it certainly won’t go down as a new high mark it is undoubtedly one of the better examples of how to take a classic formula and make it your own. By filling in the, “Die Hard in a _______”, statement with one of America’s most prestigious and scared locations–The White House it raises the stakes to a new level.  Gerard Butler is in true form as he returns to the familiar format that made him into a star. With solid action sequences and the unique ability to make the ridiculous seem plausible the final product is far greater than one might think. Of course issues like a lackluster script, hokey dialogue, and a sever absence of a charismatic antagonist make it nothing more than your standard escapist entertainment.

In the film Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent who has been honored with the duty of protecting the First Family. Banning is one of the Secret Service’s best agents and has developed a solid relationship with the President and his family. After a freak car accident that leads to the death of the First Lady Banning is transferred to the Treasury Department. Though his heroic efforts saved the President’s life he is a constant reminder of the loss the President endured. Banning understand the President’s sentiment, though he still wishes to regain his previous position.

Aaron Eckhart is tasked with duty of playing President Benjamin Asher. Based on his previous track record there is no doubt Eckhart is a quality actor. Here he feels underutilized along with most of the cast. On paper the cast reads like an Academy Award winning drama. Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, and Angela Bassett are just a few of the major players. None of them gives a bad performance. They just feel like a team of stars that have never practiced together. Never do they come across as a cohesive unit. To his credit Butler does his part to carry this film. Mike Banning will surely not be mistaken as the new John McCLane, nonetheless he does his job to make this film enjoyable.

Banning is thrust back into action when America falls under attack. Due to a well-choreographed assault the White House has fallen under the control of terrorists. Not only that nearly every member of the Secret Service is killed and the President and most of his cabinet are taken hostage. There is of course one man left standing–Banning. It is up to him to save President and reclaim the White House from the grasp of madmen. Possibly the films best achievement is the way it makes you believe this ludicrous concept could actually happen. Based on the design one might think the tone would be overly cheesy with characters that constantly give a metaphorically wink to the audience. That is not the case as everything is taken in with absolute sincerity.  Surprisingly that ended up being the right choice to make. The serious tone really enhanced the action sequences.

In general the action was full of tension and edge of your seat excitement. The main set piece that leads to the fall of the White House was particularly clever.  It set its foundation nicely making you think you know where it was going, only to shift into a different gear to keep you guessing.  Much of the action genre lately has been filled with PG-13 violence where there are high body counts but no bloodshed. This unquestionably earns its R rating. Not that heavy violence makes a movie better. Here it does aid in establishing the tone. Having that amount of brutality did allow the threat to feel real. Violence had severe consequences. Bloodshed juxtaposed with some of the United States most notable landmarks assisted in establishing an atmosphere of dread.  There were moments that did go a little too far. The tearing down of a torn American flag with the backdrop of a flaming White House is a perfect example of when the dialed up imagery was a little too forced.

Another key element is the cat and mouse game played between the protagonist and antagonist.  What this film lacks is a captivating villain. Rick Yune plays Kang a man who feels he is destined to take down America for the betterment of his people. The main issue is his character isn’t very interesting and has paper thin motives. Everything about him is stereotypical and boring.  There is some back and forth with Kang and Banning, but it is never very compelling. Part of the problem is the bland dialogue. “I’m going to stick my knife in your brain” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Yipple Ki Yay Mother F$%$!”  Nearly every attempt it made to be humorous fell flat. Butler did his best to read the lines he was given. It was just too bad he wasn’t properly equipped.

Location is a big factor when you are making an action film of this type, whether it be a building, bus, or a world famous monument. How properly you use your location greatly effects the quality of your movie. Overall this is an example of how to do it right. Adrenaline packed action and a great deal of tension make it an enjoyable thrill ride. Like most thrill rides when things slow down there is not much to do. You end up waiting for the next big moment to keep the enjoyment going. On paper Olympus Has Fallen looks like a disaster in more ways than one, which makes the final product even more surprising. If anything it is great to see Gerard Butler back in action and outside the doldrums of insipid Romantic Comedies. Issues aside Olympus Has Fallen succeeds where it needs to in order to make a watch worthy of any action fan.

Olympus Has Fallen is out now in the US. The film is released in the UK on April 17th.

*** 3/5

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One Response to “‘Olympus Has Fallen’ Review”

  • janski

    I thought it was an awesome action packed on the edge of your seat movie and I love love Gerald Butler. I would rate it as a 4+ way to go Gerald