Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo
Written by: Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt
Running Time: 120 mins
Release date: 17th April 2013
At the end of the 80s, beginning of the 90s, we had a heap of terrorist/hostage action thrillers following on the bandwagon of Die Hard. Under Siege, Sudden Death to name a few. Apart from the odd (very odd) Die Hard sequel, these films were a dying race. Until now. For later in the year we get White House Down with Channing Tatum but until then we have Olympus Has Fallen,or Die Hard in The White House. except without the wit or any real invention.
Former member of Special Forces, Mike Banning, is the President’s personal Secret Service agent when he gives up his job after a freak accident kills the President’s wife. 18 months after the event, Banning is working in the Treasury department the day after 4th July, with a contingency from South Korea visiting the White House to discuss their threatened war with North Korea. Out of the blue, a plane appears over Washington DC and starts shooting randomly around the Presidential building. Taking immediate action, the President, along with the South Koreans, are taken deep underground for protection, as the White House (Code name: Olympus) comes under attack. What the President doesn’t know is that members of the South Korean’s security staff are terrorists, led by the evil Kang. As the American security staff are being picked off by the overground attackers, Banning manages to get inside the building and it is up to him to save the President and dispose of the terrorists.
I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with action films. They are suppose to be escapism and if they are done correctly, they can make terrific entertainment. When they are lazy and unimaginative, then I just get annoyed and Olympus Has Fallen annoyed me. Not that its a bad film: the production values are very high and some of the set pieces are well executed. What annoys me is that there is nothing new here. We’ve seen this time and time again and, to be frank, it’s getting boring.
Antoine Fuqua is a fair enough director. His films haven’t always been successful artistically but he did give us the excellent Training Day and he is competent in handling action sequences. here, however, it is so by the book that it could have re-written the book. Every siege cliche is here, from the turncoat to the solo killing machine who can take on every terrorist with ease but struggles when facing the head bad guy, to redemption to the over-indulgent patriotism. They are all lined up and ticked off.
The other problem with this film is that the action is almost unwatchable, not because of shaky camera work, which is usually the norm but most of it takes place in the dark that you can’t actually see anything. When you do, it is graphic in its violence. Knives seem to be a favourite weapon of Banning, and he loves to stick them in people’s head or neck. I do hear he’s fun at parties!
As the macho killing machine, Scottish beefcake Gerard Butler dons his mock American accent with a Scottish lilt and while physically he fits the bill, he is no Bruce Willis when it comes to wise-cracks or screen presence. In fact, he is fairly witless. In a script that lacks any humour and the whole thing is played straight, it needed the hero to make one or two quips to break the tension. Then again, there is very little tension here as we predictably move along.
Aaron Eckhart doesn’t have to push himself too much as the President while Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman are completely wasted, as they sit behind the large war-room desk looking concerned and failing to make any clear decisions until Butler kills another handful of baddies. It is also slightly uneasy, considering the current political situation, that North Korea are used as the villains again. We all know they are a dangerous country but should Hollywood be putting ideas into their head?
If you like mindless action films where lots of people are killed in a brutal and violent way, then you are not going to be disappointed by Olympus Has Fallen but when films like Skyfall up the stakes as far as action films are concerned, I’m after something a lot more. It’s perfectly fine if you haven’t seen Die Hard or Under Siege or Air Force One but if you are fans of those films, you will feel this is just lazy, witless and with no invention. The audience I saw it with seem content with it. I wasn’t