Olympus Has Fallen review

Review Ron Hogan 19 Mar 2013 - 06:34

The first of two White House under siege action thrillers this year, Olympus Has Fallen is a rollicking action movie...

Eighteen months after a tragic accident, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) finds himself moved into a desk job at the Treasury Department and off President Benjamin (Aaron Eckhart) Asher's security detail. Meanwhile, at the White House, a South Korean delegation has shown up some of the torn-from-current-events problems the world is having with North Korea. There's only one small problem, the South Korean delegation has been infiltrated by North Korean terrorists, who promptly wage a full-frontal assault on the White House.

We're not talking a few guys with machine guns, either; we're talking strafing fire from the air, suicide bombers, machine guns, mobile weapons platforms, and a crazy amount of violence. There are seemingly hundreds of people that get mowed down on both sides. The President and his senior staff are trapped in the bunker with the mastermind Kang (Rick Yune), and on the outside there's only one man on the ground: Mike Banning. Now it's up to Mike to save the President while also staving off a potential world nuclear war.

Despite reveling in cliches early (the tragic accident leading to a disgraceful desk job), Olympus Has Fallen is actually a pretty lean, mean thriller. Taking parts from Die Hard, The Raid, and the Red Dawn remake in turn, the end result is a brutal, surprisingly effective, amusing thriller where Gerard Butler kills his way through the halls of the White House in search of the President with a mission to save the world. It's a movie formula that's been done dozens of times, but the setting is fairly novel and the action is appropriately bloody as befitting the film's R rating.

The biggest surprise of the film is the laughter. The script, from Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, has some pretty funny moments in between all the moments of horror. It's not quite up to the level of Die Hard, but it's definitely as good as, say, Die Hard With A Vengeance. It's certainly more of a Die Hard movie than the last few Die Hards have been. It's got some clever bits to it, though Butler may be a bit more of a superhero than John McClane and not quite as funny. Still, the movie has its moments and the actors make the most of their chances. This is definitely the kind of movie you want to see Gerard Butler in.

The cast around Butler is impressive. From Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense McMillan to an impressive Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman, and Aaron Eckhart, Olympus Has Fallen has a really good collection of characters on the good side of things, but the stand-out aside from Butler is definitely Rick Yune. Having been an impressive addition to both The Man With The Iron Fists and Ninja Assassin, he really shines here as the villainous Kang. He cuts a cool, imposing figure when squared off with his hostages, and in his fight with Gerard Butler, both actors come across well physically. He's not a great actor so much as a great screen presence that benefits any action movie he might find himself in. He's a little like Butler in that regard, though Butler has improved greatly with time.

Director Antoine Fuqua is an old hat at the action movie game, and this is definitely one of his better trips into the genre. Considering he's got some very good films on his resume (Training Day first among them), that's an impressive feat. He definitely knows what he's doing behind the camera, and he knows how to stage a gunfight. There's some very intense action sequences in this film, and a lot of tension created in the process. The film is sharp, well-paced, and definitely entertaining despite occasionally coming across a bit heavy-handed in its more symbolic moments.

There's something to be said for a well-done action movie, and despite being nearly two hours, Olympus Has Fallen never feels like anything other than a 90s style kill-fest, the likes of which Seagal or Stallone would love to have on their resume.

US Correspondent is glad to see Gerard Butler leaving romantic comedies to other leading men and taking up his rightful mantle as an action hero. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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good to hear as I thought the trailer as the review said looked like a real die hard style film. Die Hard is just another example of writers not dealing with escalation correctly that they feel has to be in sequels. Could you imagine this as John Mclane in to receive a presidential award when this kicks off. It would be the first time since DH2 that he was 'the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time'
Not seen a really good 'funny' action movie for ages, well expendables aside. really looking forward to this

Hurrah for the Norks! A few years ago the baddies would all have been Brits.

Very pleased to hear this is a good film. After seeing the trailer I had high hopes of a good ol' fashion action flick!

Looking forward to this a lot.

Sounds promissing, but quit the bitching on the last couple of Die Hard films, just be glad there are more Die Hard's even if they not on par with the first one.

surely that's diluting a great series though? milking a cash cow and producing sub-par films based on a name and a character. 'live free' was okay but by all account 'a good day' is godawful - I'm sure many fans are not thankful that a series is continuing if it's not keeping up to a certain standard.

I'm looking forward to this, but I won't be going to see it if they cut it to make a 12A rating.

"An old hat" should surely be "old hand"?

*COUGH* Star Wars *COUGH*

What are the supposed "good" action films that Fuqua directed? Training Day wasn't an action film, and let's be honest, that movie was good because of the script. The only other film I halfway enjoyed was Replacement Killers, but that was just Fuqua doing a bad job of ripping off John Woo.

Ah, the nefarious North Koreans strike at the very center of American power!

But, but, Zao (Rick Yune again) was killed when Bond and Jinx foiled the nefarious North Korean plot in Die Another Day. By the chandelier thingy in the ice palace hotel ...

This may be good, but the idea of North Korea as the big bad is just ridiculous. That killed the Red Dawn remake as much as anything. (I think they actually changed the invaders from Chinese to NoKos in the editing, for PC purposes.)

I thought this was about the 80s/90s sport shop

you can't touch China. If this movie you made is about Chinnese terrorists attacking US, your film will never allow to show in Chinese cinema market. So they used North Korea enemy plot cos NK has no movie market at all. NOt only that China will fight back at Hollywood anti-China movie making. If you do that, you have no chance.

A better answer would be to have it be a transnational conspiracy for blah blah blah, not the flipping no account NoKos.

Ahem.. no account? Try tellin' that to those to the south of the border!

I've been there.

... And our White House ain't there.

Has to be better than the dire A Good Day to Die Hard.

Reminds me of 24.

That's because the very premise - White House under siege - was in Season 7 of that very series back in 2009... and 'Olympus...' director Antoine Fuqua was all but signed up to direct the much-delayed '24' movie until it was postponed last March! It's a pity Fuqua won't direct Jack Bauer's big-screen debut, because judging by that clip of 'Olympus...' released online, it would have been all kinds of awesome... here's to Jon Cassar directing it when/if it eventually happens...

Yes. SPOILER

African commandos infiltrated the White House via the subterranean secret entrance ...

I like the escape pod on Air Force One better, myself.

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