Olympus Has Fallen Review
May 2, 2013
If movies were to be believed, the White House may be the last place one would want to find themselves during any sort of attack on United States soil, as it is apparently much easier to take control of than you would imagine. Olympus has Fallen, directed by Antoine Fuqua, stars Gerard Butler as an ex-secret service agent tasked with re-taking the White House and freeing the President after North Koreans wage a surprisingly successful attack on the Executive Mansion. This film seems to take inspiration from the action films of the 90’s, such as Die Hard and Air Force One, yet fails to recapture the excitement of either and pales in comparison to its predecessors.
I went into this film fully expecting to suspend my disbelief of the attack on the White House and as such was not surprised to discover that the takeover was difficult to imagine successfully happening in reality. The film even makes it a major point to reveal they are able to control the White House in under 13 minutes. The actual attack on the White House is one of the more entertaining action sequences in the film as it includes computer-generated explosions on a large scale and multiple gunfights. The following action moments occur on a smaller scale between Butler and other individuals and are significantly hampered at times due in part to being too brief or engulfed in darkness making it difficult to make out exactly what is occurring on screen.
Despite a solid cast, the actors have difficulty bringing enthusiasm to a cheesy and cliché-ridden script. Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman give serviceable performances for the President and Speaker of the House respectively, but their characters give them very little to actually work with. Meanwhile, Gerard Butler struggles with his sarcastic and cynical personality that we’ve seen in thousands of action movies before this one. He gives a decent performance at times but fails to accurately perform the sardonic wit that Bruce Willis perfected with Die Hard years before, and it doesn’t help that the lines he’s given come off as anything but clever.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare this to films like Die Hard, especially when the most recent entries in that series have lost their way, but the film goes out of its way to be similar, with one plot device in particular being completely ripped from the original Die Hard. The attack itself is unbelievable but the plot conveniences don’t stop there, as further developments reveal stupidity on behalf of certain service members and that the North Koreans apparently know more about the White House and what’s contained within than the President and his staff. Another constant of these action films are the villains and the ones here are shallow and uninspired. One traitor in particular never even receives a reason for defecting, and a sequence between him and the hero should have been one of the more intense moments in the film, similar to the ones Fuqua accomplished in Training Day, but is over in the blink of an eye with an unsatisfying conclusion.
Olympus has Fallen is a decent action film that attempts to recapture the spirit of the 90’s action film revolving on one man to accomplish the impossible. The film is not necessarily bad, it’s just decidedly generic and is overshadowed by the action movies it so desperately attempts to copy.