Genre: Action, Thriller
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
From the director of Training Day comes a film that’s basic selling point is ‘Die Hard in the White House’. Throughout his directing career, Antoine Fuqua has taken on many different genres, from action to thriller and even hard hitting drama, but with Olympus Has Fallen he’s gone for a film that is action through and through. Disregard the trailer at all costs because it fails to highlight to you the bloodthirsty action and the expert way in which it’s directed. It also boasts many ‘A’-list actors who certainly have fun with the material. If you loved Die Hard then this will be right up your alley.
The film opens with the President of the United States, President Asher (Eckhart), residing in Camp David over the festive season. His main bodyguard is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who gets on with the family as if he was always part of them. The President’s son and wife all acknowledge the great effect this man has on the family. However that very evening, on their way to a fundraiser, the President’s limo is forced off the road during a blizzard. With the car teetering on the edge of a bridge, Banning makes the judgement call to cut the President free but unfortunately loses the First Lady at this expense. Eighteen months later and Banning now works a desk job. The President, albeit full of respect for him, can’t look at Banning’s face without being reminded of that night. Banning now despises his life, despite having the love of a doting wife who craves his attention. When issues with the North and South Korea border arise, the South Korean President is flown to the White House for talks, however the security is all too late in realising that it was a setup to break inside and within thirteen minutes North Korean terrorists have taken over the world’s most famous building. With Banning on hand to help he finds himself the only man left alive inside the White House and the only hope of saving the President from the hands of the man wanting to turn America into a third world country.
The story weighs heavy on many contemporary issues happening in the world today. As we’re all aware of the threat North Korea pose on the World it seems to be a film that has come forward to prove what they can do. Of course the plot is unbelievably ludicrous, and the takeover of the White House would never happen, (security will be tightened after they see this) but it does seem to ring true with what is taking place in the real World. This is certainly mere coincidence on the filmmaker’s behalf but it certainly adds to the tension of the story.
This is a definitive popcorn flick and the storyline is completely over the top, though it keeps you on edge throughout. The opening scenes are strong, which hooks you in immediately creating a sense of empathy for the characters. The writing sets up the relationships between the vital individuals and what it does well is gives you someone to root for. Gerard Butler’s Banning may be a killing machine in the same sense that Rambo was, but we root for him right from the offset. In opposition to this great opening however the film does fall fast into a very generic territory. All you need is an off switch for your brain and the ability to be amazed by guns and explosions and you’ll be happy.
For well-written characters you need good actors, and luckily Fuqua managed to snare some of the best in the business. Butler seems at ease as the action hero and it makes you wonder why he ever does romantic comedies when he’s so good as the lead action hero. He could well have staked his claim for the next James Bond after this role and it certainly wouldn’t be a bad choice. Aaron Eckhart also performs strongly considering he spends most of the film tied to a beam. Morgan Freeman is back to what he does best after his miscasting in Oblivion, and Melissa Leo (in yet another film) is also on top of her game as the Secretary of Defence. The best performance in the film however comes from an actor who has failed to take Hollywood by storm despite once being a Bond villain. Rick Yune, as Kang, holds an air of authority and believability in his role and highlights why he is usually cast as the antagonist.
Where Fuqua really adds punch to the film is the action. From the trailer it looks as if CGI may be on the heavy side but when you’re deep in the film it’s unnoticeable. Instead there are many rather brutal fight scenes and attacks that look all too believable. Think of the grittiness of Training Day and you can really see the resemblance in many of the intense stand offs and fight sequences. The action may seem over the top at times but that’s what adds to the fun factor of a film such as this and Fuqua does well to balance his usual grittiness with this explosive action.
All the themes in Olympus Has Fallen have been done before – love, survival, conspiracy, terrorism, and it doesn’t bring anything new in terms of story. What it does do, however, is what all good action films should – it keeps you entertained for two hours without getting bored. We don’t often get to see these types of films anymore, with many head scratching complex narratives seeming to take over. It establishes a hero we root for and an antagonist we hate, and you simply can’t wait until they face off.
The cinematography isn’t overly sharp but the slightly grainy feel adds to the ‘in the moment’ mood that the film oozes. From start to finish it feels like this entire story is happening in a blink of the eye and it takes you on a one-hundred-mile-an-hour journey with it. The score is also solid – exactly what you’d expect from an action film.
If you miss the old school action flicks starring Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone then this is definitely the film for you. Olympus Has Fallen won’t win awards but it does exactly what is sets out to do, and what more can you ask?