The problem with so many of today’s action films is that Die Hard has set the standard for all movies that are based on the simple premise of the lone hero trapped in an enclosed space against a hoard of bad guys. Stephen Segal’s Under Siege series did a great job with the “Die Hard on a Boat,” concept. Now we have Olympus Has Fallen.
This time out our hero is disgraced secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) someone who was head of the President’s (Aaron Eckhart) protection detail until a tragic accident happened. Director Antoine Fuqua does a great job of taking the time to really set up the relationship between the Presidents family and Banning. We see that there’s a real relationship and established trust here.
First time writers Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt do a nice job of giving the two lead characters dimension. The beginning of this movie is perfectly paced. We spend just enough time with the President and his family. Butler does a fine job of providing some layers to the standard action hero cut out. The problem with the movie is no one else is as “well” flushed out as the two primaries. We do not know anything about Speaker of the House Trumball (Morgan Freeman) or Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett).
Fuqua does a great job showing the actual attack on the White House. I was surprised to find out that many people in our press screening where disturbed the attack. Yeah it was really fun and cool, but come on it wasn’t all that realistic. I was reminded of Serpenter’s first appearance in the 80s GI Joe Cartoon when he was like taking over the Washington was easy, why hasn’t anyone done this before? Cobra Commander’s responded by saying “Anyone can take over Washington, DC. The problem is holding it.”
Yes, taking over the White House was pretty awesome. A movie like this needed a memorable bad guy to bring it all together. Instead we get the North Korean super villain Kang (Rick Yune). Kang just lacked menace and his motivations seemed all over the place.
The movie ultimately fails because the action scenes, other than the fun White House takedown, were a kinetic mess of quick close ups and poorly staged fight sequences. The hostage situation was full of clichés and there was one particularly cringe inducing moment where one of the hostages screams the Pledge of Allegiance while being dragged out of the room. It was laughable.
There is also a funny moment in the 3rd act where they seemed to have run out of ideas and just said “F it, we’re Die Hard” and literally lifted several sequences from the classic movie. Olympus Has Fallen ultimately failed to deliver on the promise it shows in the beginning of the movie.
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