Review: Olympus Has Fallen
The North Koreans have taken over the White House! Really. Militants from above the 38th parallel slaughter D.C. residents and government agents, and take the President hostage. They only forgot one thing: bad-ass Secret Service Agent and man-with-a-grudge, Gerard Butler.
Who’s in It?
Butler is Mike Banning, the last man standing, looking to rescue Cheerleader-in-Chief Aaron Eckhart, who gets to do nothing but grimace and get beat up (Harrison Ford or Bill Pullman wouldn’t have been so feeble). Morgan Freeman becomes the acting President (again), and he and Dylan McDermott steal every scene– sorry Melissa Leo.
A procedural, predictable film, the main problem with this excessively bloody, largely absurd, and mindlessly patriotic piece of action fare is that it isn’t over the top enough, and not particularly likeable. Butler has the cocky part down, but lacks the charisma, while Eckhart is loveable, but not inspiring. This miscasting detracts -it’s easy to see many leading men turning down the role of a President who spends most of the film tied up and even at one point literally cheers on Butler’s character (again, What Would President Ford Do?).
As a result, Freeman and McDermott, who plays a fellow agent, are spot on, and know exactly what kind of movie they are in – a silly, explosive one—and overshadow the two leads.
In fact, everything is overshadowed. Technically, the film is unimpressive, with every scene enveloped in a disengaging darkness. Who cares that they cut the power? Action is bathed in anonymity, rendering it forgettable, perhaps because the daylight action shows some glaring CGI flaws.
Director Antoine Fuqua is superb with action, but the right tone escapes him. His previous films (Training Day, Shooter) are both more serious, and this one needs some lightening up. Butler becomes far more fun during a sudden costume change in a deserted Oval Office, swapping his shirt and tie in favor of some soldier gear and a slew of guns. The jokes are amusing too, all of which riffing on ‘just another day at the office.’
The attempt to make the violence more grounded in reality and elicit sympathy is wasted. The elaborate invasion is both captivating and ridiculous, as a military plane knocks over the Washington Monument and lands on the South Lawn – but there is not enough of that. At no time does Butler jump from an exploding helicopter, or take one out with a motorcycle (The Expendables 2), a car (Live Free or Die Hard) or a clothesline (Tomorrow Never Dies).
That’s what we need. Olympus Has Fallen goes to the top, but not over it.
Should You See It?
It’s some fun, yes, but disappointing in ways that seem to be so easy to fix. If you’re seeing it though, you’re committing to watching White House Down in June to compare and contrast.
You feared that the line was coming with the President and traitor came face to face, but here it is – at least it’s delivered by one of the few talented actors in the film: “There is a reason I never voted for you”
Also, I counted four instances of a character saying in quiet disbelief, ‘My God…” Can you spot more?