Olympus Has Fallen

WRITTEN BY: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
DIRECTED BY: Antoine Fuqua
STARRING: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Rick Yune
RATING: 3.5 stars

There is no doubt that Olympus Has Fallen is over the top with its explosions, shootings and American patriotism, but it is such a thrilling, on-the-edge-of-your-seat ride that it does not matter how ridiculous the action or plot are. While much has been said about the film coincidentally mirroring the current North Korean political issue, it is refreshing to see a Hollywood film that does not make the Russians or Middle Eastern people the terrorists threatening the United States. Though, it is fair to say there are definitely some stereotypes in this film that may insult some people, that is hardly new for a Hollywood film.

When the White House is overtaken by a North Korean terrorist named Kang (Rick Yune) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is held captive, disgraced former secret service guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) becomes trapped in the building. The United States security team, headed by Speaker Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), must rely on Banning's skills to retake the White House, save the President and his son, and prevent a nuclear disaster.

So often in action films, humanising characters is almost an after-thought, in favour of the action. But it is so much more gratifying when we care about the characters. This is what makes Die Hard the ultimate action film (aside from the one-liners and stand-out performance by a charismatic Bruce Willis). While Olympus Has Fallen is certainly no Die Hard, it does open with an emotive and action-packed prologue that lays the foundation for the protagonists. We instantly learn so much about them and their motivations, and we care for them, which is vital as events progress in the rest of the film.

It also helps that the cast is quite strong. Butler seems to have a knack for playing brutish tough guys, but his character is a lot smarter in this film. He reminded me of Jack Bauer in 24. Eckhart is a quality actor and even delivered an awful one-liner with conviction towards the end of the film, proving just how important it is to have good actors in these kinds of films to help lift them from that “lame factor” we often see in action films. Freeman and Angela Bassett, playing the secret service director, were also strong. Unfortunately, some of the worst dialogue was given to Dylan McDermott as a former secret service guard, while Radha Mitchell was underused as Banning's doctor wife and Melissa Leo overacted in some scenes playing the secretary of defence. Yune could have been better if his character was given more depth.

Olympus Has Fallen is definitely a film for action fans. In the safe hands of director Antoine Fuqua, it is much better than other recent action offerings like G.I. Joe Retaliation, Oblivion and Broken City.