When the White House comes under attack, the safety of the president and the heart of American politics is in the hands of one man – a demoted Secret Service agent in need of redemption. Review of Olympus Has Fallen after the jump.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) was the president’s top agent until an incident saw him demoted to a lowly position at the US Treasury. Mike is toiling away at his desk job when he hears a terrific roar from outside. Looking out the window Mike sees that a fighter plane is firing on the innocent people of Washington D.C, as it swoops around the White House and centre of American politics. Inside the White House is the president (Aaron Eckheart) who is meeting the South Korean president about rising tensions with the North. They are shepherded down to the bunker with key staff; and the White House becomes the scene of a horrific bloodbath.
Mike manages to get inside the White House and gains contact the outside world. He is connected to Allan Trumball (Morgan Freeman) who is the acting president and is heading up the crisis response group. Despite Mike’s reputation, they are required to work with him as he is the only person in the White House not dead or in the bunker. It’s all on Mike – he has his chance at redemption and he isn’t about to stuff it up. He has to figure out who the enemy is, what they want, and he needs to get the president out alive.
There is something a little unnerving about watching a terrorist attack on US soil which is due to tensions between North and South Korea at a time like this. Unfortunately this genuine feeling of being unnerved soon gave way to mild amusement, then disbelief, and then annoyance at the ridiculous story unfolding before my eyes. That one moment of realism was followed by almost 2 hours of blood, guts and tears (the tears were mine). We’ve seen this sort of thing so many times before; and I’m afraid to say that it’s hard to think of a film that does the ‘attack on American soil’ action-thriller worse than Olympus Has Fallen.
We are meant to invest in Mike and feel real fear for what is happening inside the White House. Many people are dead, the president is in mortal danger and the US nuclear arms system is at risk. However, it’s hard to feel any real emotion when the characters are reading wooden lines from the book of 80s action-thriller clichés. These lines might have had an impact when they were one-offs read by actors with talent; but when read back-to-back by the likes of Gerard Butler, they just sounded cheesy and hollow. On the plus side the few comedic lines in the film really hit the mark. If only the film had taken itself a little less seriously, it might have been able to make something work.
There was a level of gratuitous violence in this film that left a bad taste in my mouth – it felt like it was trying to have the edge of an Asian action-thriller, with none of the beautifully executed action sequences. I found it hard to watch female characters get beaten so savagely; and quickly lost interest at the number of people shot in the face. I’m not exactly sure what the point of the violence was. We got the point early on that it was a rough situation – kicking a woman in the guts to reinforce that wasn’t necessary. For the most part the action was shot a shaky-cam haphazardly edited style – i.e. , it’s not very good, so let’s make lots of cuts so they audience might not notice how bad it is.
If you’re looking for a cheesy action flick, then look no further than Olympus Has Fallen. It has patriotism in bucket-loads, a hero seeking redemption, a cartoon like villain and more clichés than the average teen romance. For this you trade 2 hours of your life and your hard-earned cash. I say, no deal.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer(s): Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett
Runtime: 119 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: April 18 2013; USA: March 22 2013