Olympus Has Fallen (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

Saving the president.

U.S. Presidents have not always fared so well in Hollywood over the years. After all, Franchot Tone died of cancer in “Advise and Consent” (1962), Henry Fonda had to deal with the Reds blowing up everything in “Fail-Safe” (1964) and Fredric March was weakened and almost overthrown that same year in “Seven Days in May.” In more recent times, Richard Nixon was pilloried in “All the President’s Men” (1976), Jack Warden as President ‘Bobby’ was made to look foolish in “Being There” (1980), John F. Kennedy was blown away in “JFK” (1991), Bill Pullman had his residence destroyed AND had to appear with Will Smith and Randy Quaid in “Independence Day” (1996) and Harrison Ford survived bullets, terrorism and a plane crash in “Air Force One” (1997).

There are certainly more examples, but I think the point has been made. The newest Chief Executive to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight“), who, as President Benjamin Asher, is kidnapped, beaten and held hostage in the action thriller by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day“), Olympus Has Fallen. And while borrowing quite heavily from “Die Hard,” as well as the TV series “24,” it has enough bangs, flashing lights, falling aircraft and piling bodies to stand — somewhat — on its own as a decent entry into the genre.

The lead, however, is Gerard Butler who, coming off twin turkeys “Chasing Mavericks” and “Playing for Keeps,” has a lot to prove here. As Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, he needs not only to work his way back into the audience’s good grace, but the White House’s as well. It seems after saving the president’s life in an automobile incident 18 months prior (at the cost of the life of the First Lady (Ashley Judd, “Dolphin Tale”)), Asher rewarded him by kicking him off his detail because the memories were just too painful.

Now working at a desk at the Treasury Dept., Banning is at the right place and the right time when North Korean terrorists, through an amazing battle plan and several convenient plot holes one could drive tanks between, take over and secure the White House. The President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense (a feisty Melissa Leo, “The Fighter“) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are also captured and held in the building’s bunker. Surviving and uttering lines like, “I’m the only chance you got,” Butler gets to play the John McClane part that Bruce Willis once owned (during the first two films, anyway). And while not nearly as fun or sardonic as Willis was then, Butler is light years better than him in the last installment of the franchise, “A Good Day to Die Hard.”

As expected Olympus Has Fallen has more than its fair share of killing off of the bad guys. Many are offed with relative ease by various means (broken necks, gunshots to the head, strangulations, slit throats, knives to the brain, etc., etc., etc.); none, however, are dispatched with the clever patter of other action heroes. They all lead to the top dog, Kang (Rick Yune, “The Man with the Iron Fists“), who, while evil enough, could have used a little of the delightful brutality of Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs,” or Gary Oldman in “Air Force One,” and make it seem he at least relished being the bad guy.

There’s a few side arcs to follow while all of this is going on — most notable of them is the one involving Speaker of the House, Rep. Trumbull (Morgan Freeman, “The Dark Knight Rises”) who has to decide between obeying the terrorist decree of recalling the Seventh Fleet and pulling troops form the North-South Korean Demilitarized Zone or saving the lives of the hostages, as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett, “What’s Love Got to Do with It“) and Joint Chiefs Gen. Edward Clegg (Robert Forster, “The Descendants“) throw their two cents in.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) by The Critical Movie Critics

Securing a location.

So, will Banning save the day and can Butler save his career?

The first part of the question is a foregone conclusion. The second, not so much. Fuqua, who directed Denzel Washington to a Best Actor award in “Training Day,” does not have those kinds of chops here. But with several Oscar nominees (as well as winner in Freeman and Leo), the cast helps him raise Butler’s effort above that of your ordinary film of this genre. Freeman, Leo, Bassett and Eckhart are especially earnest in their roles and bring just the right amount of support and realism.

In the end Olympus Has Fallen is loud, violent, messy and sometimes just plain ridiculous (as when it takes almost hours to get the military to arrive in force at the scene), but if you suspend a little disbelief and are in the mood for such a picture, you will no doubt be on the edge of your seat throughout.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
3 Star Rating: Average


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The Critical Movie Critics

I have been a movie fan for most of my life and a film critic since 1986 (my first published review was for "Platoon"). Since that time I have written for several news and entertainment publications in California, Utah and Idaho. Big fan of the Academy Awards - but wish it would go back to the five-minute dinner it was in May, 1929. A former member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and current co-host of "The Movie Guys," each Sunday afternoon on KOGO AM 600 in San Diego with Kevin Finnerty.

'Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)' have 15 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 1:17 pm Manmo

    This gives Die Hard a real run for the money.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      March 22, 2013 @ 3:18 pm Freedomspice

      Gives Die Hard a real run for the moeny? Die Hard was at least plausible and genuinely captivating.

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        April 18, 2013 @ 12:14 am Greg Eichelberger

        Really? Did you see the last installment …?

        • The Critical Movie Critics

          April 20, 2013 @ 3:31 pm Freedomspice

          I did. This comment however was comparing Olympus Has Fallen to Die Hard 1.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 1:22 pm bonrip

    oh how easy it is to infiltrate the white house! had I known it was such a simple task, I’d have done it years ago… now before the secret service comes to arrest me, what I’m really saying is the premise is one of the dumber ones. the action is good though.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 1:43 pm Taylor

    I don’t think Butler needs to save his career, he just needs to steer clear of the sappy rom-coms for a bit. A good semi-dramatic actioner like Olympus is where his strengths lay so as long as he gets a few of these in, he’ll be fine.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 2:20 pm G3

    Morgan Freeman makes everything good.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 2:49 pm Just Say NO

    North Korea? First that shitty Red Dawn remake and now this? Get fucking real, man. Stop pounding the drum that villifies to make a possible war easier to digest.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      March 22, 2013 @ 6:41 pm echo

      Or at the very least pound the drum for China, the country they really wanted to use as the enemy for these movies.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 3:35 pm blower9009

    choices – this or wait for White House Down..

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      March 22, 2013 @ 4:32 pm Guff

      It comes down to the handsome factor. Do you prefer Gerard Butler or Channing Tatum?

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        March 23, 2013 @ 6:51 pm blower9009


        I was hoping to judge on the known and expected action.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 4:57 pm Halocon

    Looks like a good enough action movie.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 22, 2013 @ 10:04 pm Siam Power

    Just a bit too far fetched for my liking.

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 23, 2013 @ 5:07 am Concerned Consumer

    This film is transparent albeit appalling “war mongering” designed to prepare this nation for a war with N. Korea. I’m disgusted that the film industry has even allowed its production and shudder at its impending impact. Should anyone doubt the psychological strategy employed here, watch a much more intelligent film – “Emperor” – in which that nation prepared its citizenry, even school children, to hate Americans before invading Pearl Harbor. I would imagine the same occurred in Nazi Germany during that era. I’m not saying N. Korea is not doing the same thing, yet as I look at the military industrial complex of this nation and its hellbent commitment to keep growing itself – I fear the USA is becoming less safe and sane by the minute.

    Do your heart, soul and mind a favor. Boycott this film.

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