'Olympus Has Fallen'
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster, Ashley Judd
Written by: Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt
Is the Die Hard prototype that worn already that we have to start looking for a younger and leaner replacement? Regardless, 'Olympus' is a fun action movie - an action movie that ultimately lacks tension, but still an enjoyable ride none-the-less. The title itself is in the past tense; which leaves you plagued with a sense of inevitability throughout the viewing experience. In a sense, it's got all the hallmarks of Die Hard - and every other contemporary action film glorified by greats like Woo - where one man takes an entire horde of enemies to save a country and the world, and to redeem themselves. Ultimately, the heroes are flawed and broken, sometimes in penance and sometimes just in the wrong damn place. It's a basic set-up (Con Air, Die Hard, Hero... and so on and so forth), but one that works brilliantly. Throw in some witty quips to make flaws to help turn into the rogue we can relate to and laugh along with, turn up the tension to 11, throw in huge explosions and epic action sequences and you have a classic on your hands. While 'Olympus Has Fallen' is no classic, it is an acceptable spectacle that will keep any action movie fan entertained and committed.
In essence, the whole taking back a building full of terrorists out to destroy the world by an ex-Special-Forces guy is blown completely out of proportion here; take the Nakatomi Plaza and raise it to the White House, replace Rickman's slick terrorist with Rick Yune's ruthless, and a veritable Willis with a seasoned Butler and you get 'Olympus'.
It's clearly a film with patriotic overtones; the smoldering and crumbling ruins of the Washington Memorial as the Hercules crashes through it are clearly symbolic. There's the old adage that the American flag can never be allowed to touch the ground - something which is clearly reflected in the heavily animated shot of the bullet-ridden flag after it is ripped from the top of the White House and thrown over the edge.
One thing you don't get in this film is small; the cast is star-studded, the effects are ridiculously over the top, the plot is so improbable that it is almost condescending to the average movie junkie, and the whole journey looks epic.
The film's plot is relatively simple - it starts out with Christmas at Camp David, where due to horrendous weather conditions and a freak accident, the First Lady (Ashley Judd) is lost into an icy lake. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler's in charge Secret Service Agent) takes the blame for the decision as he chose to save the President (Aaron Eckhart) over her and is re-assigned to the Treasury (with a desk conveniently near a window that allows him a great view of his former work place).
North Korean terrorists, led by Rick Yune's extremist Kang, attack the White House through trickery and an all guns blazing assault that is helped by determined ground forces who are posing as tourists visiting Washington and flanked by some very auspicious trucks that carry large calibre turrets in them. They then take the White House, the President and his staff, hostage. Morgan Freeman's Trumbull then becomes acting president, a nod to America's current prestigious leader, President Obama. The terrorists demand the retreat of America's Seventh Fleet and forces in the DMZ in South Korea - as Banning drily puts "Is that all?".
The movie raises two important questions about the narrative: why would they let an unidentified C130 (a plane that even from the trailer you will be able to tell is extremely hard to miss) get so close to the White House (I think the centre hub of America's political machine and home to much of it's heritage) - which I believe would have more than a single anti-air defence system on the roof of the White House, as well, you know tall buildings in the way in the city for a plane that big, a large cache of weapons and you know, launch more than two fighters to take on a military craft of that size? Secondly, how did they get such unfettered access to weaponry, allowed to get hundreds of extremely trained commandos into the country and a stupendous amount of explosives without a single intelligence agency being tipped off? Especially in today's paranoid, security ridden world? Though perhaps looking for sense in an action film is like looking for tropical birds in the middle of an urban city.
And the single most important question which is raised in every one of these Die-Hard prototype films; how come the one guy, who is presumably not only the ex-Special Forces in the film, seems to be so innumerably more badass than the others?
Eckhart seems to reprise his constant role of the high power character that wears a finely tailored and crisp suit, is conflicted by past events/decisions and someone who has/or is about to make a U-turn of epic proportions on their life.
Regardless, America's enemy in the film is never clearly defined beyond Kang's extremely well prepared military group; it's never truly explained whether or not it was a North Korean sanctioned attack, but it is clear that they are ready to go to war in the blink of an eye and that apparently, the only thing standing in the way of a full-blown assault which appears to be another foregone conclusive victory - is America and it's presence. And in this case; they are also the critical link in a chain that could lead the world into an all out nuclear war. The film doesn't (and could have) cover enough ground regarding the war between North and South Korea; Kang seems focused on not just forcing America to leave, but also to suffer as he and his countrymen had suffered.
The CGI is watchable - if not a little overdone - (opening forest shot, the desecrated flag, the attack by the Hercules) and the score fills in all the necessary gaps adequately. While the narrative may not be coherent or feasible; it has it's moments - like when Butler's character literally struggles with the concept of a hashtag on a keyboard to save the world and suggestions to his nemesis about certain games they could play.
Though there is the odd throwback to Die Hard - such as when Banning meets a turncoat in an almost carbon copy the scene when Rickman's terrorist pretended to be hapless innocent 'Bill Clay'
The film, whether inadvertently or not, sends a clear message about America; about the need for a stock-check, a rebirth on the horizon and an un-bowing will (and eventual victory) over even the most devastating terrorists. It's clearly an image that is undoubtedly part of the American fantasy landscape.
What the Mr thought:
It's worth a watch, if you're wanting a joy-ride on the silver screen. In a sense, it's like driving fast, but knowing that you won't get hurt if you crash; it's also understanding that your generic sportscar may not be the fastest, or even the best, but it sure as anything will get you to the finish line - but don't look for any into
What the Misses though:
I always love a film with Gerard Butler in! So the film is definitely worth seeing, it isn't ground breaking but it's good to watch. I thought in some places that the CGI was well.... not that put together, a little over the top and distracting. However I did enjoy the film, and unlike the Mr I felt the tension, a little, towards the end.
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Mr & Misses