Olympus Has Fallen – 2013
Director Anton Fuqua
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Finley Jacobsen, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Rick Yune
Written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
The attack on the White House is glorious. An ungodly amount of .50 caliber bullets flying throughout, maiming some, but killing more. The subtlety is comparable to McBain, the Arnold clone that featured in so many movie clips on The Simpsons. One realizes as the ammo is flying and the bullet riddled flag falls helplessly from the top of the nations first residence, they haven’t overdone it this well in years. Production of this film was predominantly digital effects. There are so many great scenes of carnage, one hardly has the urge to wonder whether how it is fake. Instead, we get to marvel in its glorious, Peckinpah nature.
Playing the role of Mendoza’s minions this time is a sturdy band of North Koreans, one of the pure enemy states we have left. Their leader is Kang Yeonsak, played with an intricate sleaziness by Rick Yune. He has taken control of the White House with a boldly obvious, yet strangely conceivable plan. There to stop them is Mike Banning (Butler) who used to be the lead secret service agent until Ashley Judd discovered she was only going to need to play the president’s wife for about five minutes of screen time. His friend, the President (Eckhardt) has him removed from the team and relegated to a desk job. He’s feeling kind of low and his wife (Mitchell) is kind of an ass to him. Thankfully his boss (Bassett) knows why Butler headlines the film.
Morgan Freeman is the Speaker of the House, thrust into the role of Commander-in-Chief. Let’s face it, most Americans would have no problem with Freeman running the nation. That’s not what this is about, though. We have to involve all of these other actors, like Dylan McDermott and Melissa Leo, so other, less cool stuff will happen for a few scenes now and again. Thank God their screen time is limited. Even better, Leo gets the kind of treatment most wanted to give her after witnessing her deplorable Oscar acceptance speech a few years ago.
The middle act takes place within the interior of the residence. Banning is searching for the President’s son, who looks like a younger version of drummer Bill Gibson from Huey Lewis’ band, The News. He’s also trying to win back the House, one bad guy at a time. The journey is interesting, and the fights are decently staged. The quest for the codes is drawn out unnecessarily. One wishes that they could have found a more interesting way to go about working the MacGuffin. Still, it’s nice to see Butler lurking around, discovering that the brain trust, lead by the normally stellar Forster, is making mistakes, à la, the FBI guys from Die Hard. We even get a re-use of the phrase “news flash.”
It takes a willing suspension of disbelief to ignore the big weapons are not used to defend the White House until the bad guys get in. It takes even more to picture Chris Matthews as someone who actually would deliver relevant and timely news, rather than the gasbagging he normally pukes out.
The movie begins its downward descent the moment Banning says “it doesn’t add up.” The big ending is narrowed to an LED countdown and one of those fights where the obviously overmatched hero turns the table with dramatic flourish. Sure, it’s crap. It’s also great to watch after a hard day of nothing much to do.
(***1/2 out of *****)