a critiQal film review Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a terrorist mastermind (Yune) and the President (Eckhart) is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning (Butler) finds himself trapped within the building. As our national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on BanningĀ¹s inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President, and avert an even bigger crisis.

704 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 31s)

With the recent release of London Has Fallen (2016) on DVD, it seemed like a good time to go back and watch Olympus Has Fallen. The first film in the series, it introduces us to the main characters, and sets up a exciting “Die Hard (1988) at the White House” scenario.

Back when it was released, it was only one of two films with the same basic setup. While Olympus Has Fallen seemed to win over the crowds a bit better, it faced competition in it’s White House attack scenario with White House Down (2013), starring Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum. Now that that battleground has passed (and that film has seemed to fade into oblivion rather quickly), it seemed like a good time to go back and watch Olympus Has Fallen. Would the star power of Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart (among others) make this Antoine Fuqua-directed action flick worth our time?

Gerard Butler steps into the role of John McClane…er, Mike Banning…with ease. Like his turn in Gamer (2009), he shows that he is a good fit for these action roles, and doesn’t disappoint. Sure, he’s a lot more serious than the one-line slinging Willis, but it seems to fit in well with the grittier turn action thrillers have taken recently. Olympus Has Fallen lets him strut his action chops, and he plays it up to good effect. Although stoic and purposeful, he nevertheless manages to give a bit of feeling to his character when the scenes call for it.

The rest of the cast is just as solid. Aaron Eckhart brings a much-needed bit of emotional component to the film as a President in trouble, while Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett light up their scenes in the tense Situation Room. Even Rick Yune, used to playing a one-note bad guy (see Die Another Day (2002)), brings a calculating coldness to his villain, and helps the viewer root for the good guys – just as he’s supposed to.

Olympus Has Fallen mixes in equal parts Die Hard (1988) and Air Force One (1997) to bring an 80’s/90’s action flick throwback back into the spotlight, and does it with style. Sure, it’s not exactly original by any means, but viewers will still find themselves having a good time while watching Gerard “One Man Army” Butler take out the bad guys and wreak havoc with their plans. Under Antoine Fuqua’s direction (the guy behind action pieces like The Replacement Killers (1998) and The Equalizer (2014)), the action is fast and furious, and the sequences are both bloody and exciting. Sure, the plot may be a bit thin, but Fuqua does a good job of bringing the action to the forefront, easily helping viewers forget about the film’s faults.

The action is action-packed and intense. From an opening sequence that sets things in motion, to a stunning all-out blitz on the White House, the film pulls viewers in right from the start with it’s ferocious intensity. After getting the attention of the audience, it doesn’t let up, pulling the viewers immediately into an intense game of cat-and-mouse with the hero and the villain. But it’s those action sequences at the start that get the ball rolling, and viewers should have fun re-watching the White House attack time and again. That doesn’t mean the sequence is perfect. Far from it. But it’s intense, and just what viewers are expecting from a Die Hard (1988) scenario these days.

With the popularity of the Die Hard (1988) films waning in recent years, a new film needed to step up and recapture some of the intensity that caused viewers to flock to that type of film for years. Toss in a nostalgia for a bit of over-the-top 80’s/90’s actioneers (as shown by the popularity of The Expendables (2010) recently), and the time was ripe for a film like Olympus Has Fallen.

While it’s full of faults, Butler’s action hero – coupled with more than a bit of patriotism and lots of intense action – makes Olympus Has Fallen worth seeing time and again. Of course, viewers will probably be more than happy to pick at the problems with the film once it’s done…but many won’t be able to deny the fun they had watching it. And that’s exactly the point.

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