Basically, crazy North Korean terrorists attack and take over the White House. What. This movie makes the whole task look easy. There’s surely a lot of unseen details in the logistics of actually taking over the White House, but let’s just suspend our disbelief, ok?
Imagine yourself back in 1984 or so when those (now cheesy) partriotic movies were all the rage, Ronald Reagan was president, and most people were all on board with that. Now imagine a movie with that mentailty in a world that has long since moved on. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Olympus Has Fallen.
Gerard Butler is disgraced presidential guard Mike Banning. He finds himself in the white House after a terrorist attack traps him there, and with his extensive inside knowledge he must try to rescue the President from his abductors. Basically, crazy North Korean terrorists attack and take over the White House. What. This movie makes the whole task look easy. There’s surely a lot of unseen details in the logistics of actually taking over the White House, but let’s just suspend our disbelief, ok?
Yeah, it’s kind of like Die Hard but in the White House and slathered in the heavy patriotism of those 80’s movies like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and Rocky IV. Hey, not to say that there’s anything wrong with patriotism. Not at all. But let’s face it, when it’s blind and doesn’t account for the possiblility that your country could use some work, well, that’s just too much. I mean, at least Independence Day was kinda silly and fun, despite its’ flaws. But Olympus Has Fallen does not have its’ tongue planted firmly in its’ cheek. It has some blantant cheesy flag-waving moments that I found a bit eye-rolling.
Other than that, Olympus Has Fallen does have some good things going for it. Ironically timely in the fact that the bad guys are North Korean terrorists, and we are currently dealing with them in the news. And more importantly, as an action film, it isn’t that bad. But it does have a fair bit of recycled material. Banning is this one man army stealthing about the White House killing off the enemy one or two at a time, managing to take control of the whole video system and telling the bad guy, Kang (Rick Yune) how the body count is piling up out there. Yeah, there’s a fair bit of trash talking on both sides. Yune is good as the suave but totally ruthless Kang, and indeed Butler is good as a proficient operative.
On the outside, as the acting President, Morgan Freeman is the Speaker of the House and he is, well, Morgan Freeman; totally competent and classes up pretty much any role. Angela Bassett plays the Secret Service Directer, Robert Forster plays General Clegg, and he’s all about attacking things. If those aren’t enough names for you, how about Aaron Eckhart as President Asher, Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan, Cole Hauser as agent Roma, and Ashley Judd as Asher’s wife. Everyone does just fine, but the usually awesome Radha Mitchell is utterly wasted here by playing Bannings wife, who gets no more to do than worry about Mike and what’s going on while she looks concerned for her patients in a hospital ER. And then there is Dylan McDermott. For a guy that’s pretty high profile these days, I almost didn’t notice him. He plays Forbes, a retiring presidential guard that’s not all he seems to be. He gets to spout one or two lines about how the U.S. presidency is bought. Maybe he just wanted to play a prick for a change, but what a strange small role here.
This is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who have us good films like The Replacement Killers and Training Day, then followed those up with movies like King Arthur and Shooter. There are a lot of middle of the road films in his oeuvre, and Olympus Has Fallen falls right in there with them. You know how sometimes you feel like a director isn’t living up to their potential? Yeah, me too.
You know, if you’re really passionate about patriotism, or politics on a national scale, Olympus Has Fallen is going to get your panties in a bunch. If you just let it be an action movie, then you might enjoy some of this. But I found too much retread of older movies like this. There’s nothing new here, no ground-breaking anything, but there’s enough taught action to make a rainy afternoon somewhere more mildly entertaining if it turned up on cable or Netflix.
I can’t really go more than two and a half kittenhands. And the fact that the master of cheesy patriotic films, Roland Emmerich, has directed another movie with the same kind of premise due out this summer, I’m wary of a potential trend coming. Hey, why not bring back the kid/adult body switching premise? It was fun the sixth time Hollywood did that. Hell, there were three in 1988 alone. Ack.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, so looking forward to this summer’s White House Down. Um, no, actually I’m not.