Olympus Has Fallen opens with lead presidential bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) watching over the Commander in Chief Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), the first lady (Ashley Judd), and their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) on a family vacation at Camp David. Tragedy strikes after a freak car accident on the icy roads leaves President Asher a widower and Connor without a mother. Eighteen month’s later, Banning has been demoted to security of the Treasury Department when tragedy strikes again; this time in a terrorist attack.
Led by a steely, clean cut anti-American by the name of Chang (played by Rick Yune who basically did the same in Die Another Day) and a band of North Korean Rebels, American soil is not only attacked, but the White House is infiltrated and taken over. Banning, in near proximity, is the only person to survive the ambush and sneak into the newly enemy occupied territory. With radio contact to the U.S. War Room that includes Morgan Freeman playing Speaker of the House Alan Trumbull and now acting as president, Banning must save Pres. Asher and the other surviving detainees, including fantastically over-dramatic Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense, and stop Chang and foreign baddies the only way he knows how- with pain.
The glee I had during and after watching Olympus Has Fallen is fiercely palpable, and now all I want to do is sing its praises. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua celebrates the ‘one man against all odds’ that the 80’s and 90’s R-rated action flicks had in spades. Original-smariginal- Olympus Has Fallen is “Die Hard” in the White House, and it felt so good. It’s like Under Siege and Air Force One had a baby, and that baby grew up on a steady diet of bullet-laced dynamite and snarky catch phrases- yeah, it’s just like that.
Going into the movie, I wondered why the filmmakers went with a R rating instead of the all more public going-inclusive and generally better money-making PG-13. It’s because they wanted to give me my man card back. I not only got it back, but they gave me a spare for when I lose it watching Stephenie Meyer’s The Host next week.
You can tell Fuqua has a love for the high adrenaline genre, getting just about every detail right, which includes the ridiculous ones. A man looking for redemption and getting it with the fate of national security on the line?!?!- yes, please. Saturated in good ol’ fashion patriotism (a slow motion shot of a falling, bullet-ridden American flag against the blood orange dusk sky is over the top marvelous). Light on plot and highly implausible at that, Fuqua keeps his attention on the action, making for a very swift, incredibly tense, and surprisingly exciting thriller. Oh, and did I mention that the climax’s outcome rests on a countdown timer?!?!- yes, please.
Fuqua doesn’t let this become just an Expendables wannabe. As implausible as it gets, the terrorist attack can’t help but elicit a 9/11 comparison, especially as the Washington Monument’s destruction falls on American civilians. The intensity of Fuqua’s direction never allows these scenes to turn into exploitation, but gives us the “enough time has passed” courage to enjoy such popcorn fodder- popcorn fodder to be repeated later this summer with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx in White House Down.
I was not a Gerard Butler fan, and then I saw him in this. Taking a break from his droll romantic comedies, Butler kicks butt and takes names and then uses those names to call attention to those whom he plans to put a knife in their head. Perfectly intense, but at the same never letting a good line pass him by, like the- “Lets play a game of F*#k off. You go first”, Butler’s Banning awesomely unleashes on the lead villain.
I just want to follow Butler’s Mike Banning as he keeps getting into sticky situations and saves other things that have fallen, and then in 20 years after the series has totalled 6, I’ll lose interest when Mike is forced to chase after his son, a character who’s oddly just being introduced now after all those years, and Mike gets sadly turned into someone he’s not by a silly director with a silly script. Not that that would ever happen, right?
I wish Olympus Has Fallen would have gotten the same budget as White House Down. The CGI is definitely spotty, just being a notch above some video games, but what the CGI lacked in effect Gerard Butler’s muscles didn’t.
Olympus is a ridiculously entertaining film of the highest guilty pleasure order.
Take a Drink: for every person shot in the head.
Take a Drink: for every person Banning does hand to hand combat with.
Take a Drink: every time Banning says the ‘F’ word.
Down a Shot: when the Pledge of Allegiance is started.