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.
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