Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard in the White House. Minus the personality. And the wit. And the perfect casting.
Have I lowered your expectations sufficiently? The action flick from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua is structured like a shoot-'em-up video game, with extra dollops of torture. How sophisticated is Olympus Has Fallen? The hero is named Mike Banning and the villain is called Kang. Mike Banning versus Kang - maybe I should have described the film as Jonny Quest in the White House.
Here's the thing, though. The damned movie is entertaining. Watching an impressive cast riding a rollercoaster of dumb-ass clichés is not the worst way to spend a couple of hours. God knows there are plenty of high-quality action flicks available for home viewing, but if you're in the mood to go to the theater and not think, Olympus Has Fallen just might be for you. If you're reading this review three months from now, however, and considered watching this on home video, don't. With so many good action movies at your disposal, you shouldn't waste your time on a glorified video game with a happening cast.
The story: When a traffic accident leaves the White House limo dangling off a bridge, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) manages to save President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), but First Lady Margaret (Ashley Judd) plunges to her death in the river below. Cut to months later, when Banning has a new job away from the White House and out of the president's sight. Thus concludes the character development of hero Mike Banning. The character development for President Asher is even simpler, by the way. He mourns his wife and loves his son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). And he's square-jawed. That's it.
Enter a delegation from South Korea, at the White House to discuss the ongoing threat from North Korea. But wait, turns out the delegation has been infiltrated by terrorists led by Kang (Rick Yune). All hell breaks loose as the president and his staff (including valiant Melissa Leo) gets kidnapped and the military assault on the White House begins. Luckily, the window of Mike Banning's office looks out on the invasion site, giving Banning the chance to use his mutant powers - er, make that Secret Service training - to rescue the president and stop the invading forces.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) is now Acting President (but really, isn't Freeman always Acting President?). His expert team includes Secret Service Director and voice-of-reason Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett) and General Edward Klegg (Robert Forster), the designated asshole for the good guys. Banning soon contacts them by phone and the Die Hard rip-off motif is complete.
The quick-cut action is peppered with one-liners, but the lack of personality keeps the film from transcending its genre. Questions abound: Why focus so much on the missing son without suitably following up? Why cast Morgan Freeman as Acting President while allowing Aaron Eckhart to be so bland as the real one? Of course, Olympus Has Fallen is not a movie for questions, just quips and explosions.
[A+E] Film + TV, Visual Arts + Museums
[A+E] Film + TV
[A+E] Film + TV
[A+E] Film + TV, Beer + Wine
[A+E] Film + TV, Politics, Social Justice