Olympus has Fallen
White House Under Siege

In this age of incredibly realistic-looking special effects that can convince audiences that super heroes live among us and the major studios’ desire to appeal to wider audiences (read: maintain a PG-13 rating), there is a certain kind of movie that we just don’t see that often anymore: the violent and bloody action thriller for adults.  These movies were hugely popular in the eighties and nineties, but have all but disappeared in the new millennium.  Heck, even the Bourne movies were rated PG-13.  Sure, we get the occasional throwback like The Expendables, but few that take themselves seriously.  Olympus has Fallen does take itself seriously… even if that is sometimes a little too seriously.

The movie stars Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent who is taken off the President’s detail after making a critical judgment call one dark winter night.  Now working a desk job at the Treasury, Banning has a front row seat when the White House comes under attack.  A group of terrorists have penetrated America’s most secure building and taken the leader of the free world hostage in his own security bunker.

Aaron Eckhart as the President in Olympus Has FallenWith both the President and Vice President taken hostage, the Speaker of the House becomes the acting President and he is given a challenging choice: risk the life of the President or risk the lives of millions of people by standing down certain defenses.  Fortunately, the Speaker has an ace in the hole as Banning has somehow gotten himself into the taken White House where he can take out the terrorists one at a time and hopefully rescue the President.

The opening shots of Olympus has Fallen along with its patriotic and overly-melodramatic musical score are reminiscent of Michael Bay’s The Rock, while the plot plays out like a combination of Air Force One, Die Hard, and Under Siege; all movies which, for the record, were rated R.  Olympus has Fallen is the same kind of movie as those and although not as good as those movies, fans of them will likely not complain.

The first thing anyone watching this movie needs to do, of course, is to suspend their disbelief.  The overriding question while watching the movie is “It can’t be that easy (to invade the White House), can it?”  The answer, I’d hope, is of course it’s not, but as long as you are able to overlook that crucial plot hole and a couple others, then you will be in for quite a ride.

A key to success for any movie of this kind is the dramatic pacing and director Antoine Fuqua does an excellent job of keeping the tensions high, elevating towards a world-on-the-brink conclusion.  I was never bored for a second while watching Olympus has Fallen and while it is fairly predictable, there are a couple of surprises along the way.  The action is exciting and the serious tone is maintained mostly throughout, with a minimal amount of unintended chuckles from the audience.

Butler doesn’t necessarily shine in the lead role, lacking Bruce Willis’ talent for one-liners and Steven Seagal’s fighting chops, but he does a good enough job to carry the movie.  What he does excel at is bringing some spontaneity to his violence, every once in a while shocking the audience with a sudden knife to through somebody’s skull.  Aaron Eckhart plays the typical I-won’t-negotiate-with-terrorists U.S. President and Morgan Freeman is exactly the person we want delivering a press conference after a fictional terrorist attack, but he’s given surprisingly little to do outside of that.

Olympus has Fallen probably won’t be the blockbuster that a more family-friendly film like Oz the Great and Powerful is, but it doesn’t necessarily set out to be.  By upping the blood and violence, this movie is telling us that it has its sights set on a target audience. That target audience will be thankful.

Olympus has Fallen is rated R for “strong violence and language throughout.”  As mentioned in the review, the filmmakers did not hold back on the violence with headshots galore and plenty of knife attacks.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Olympus has Fallen.