If there is one word you can’t use to describe Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen, it’s unique. The premise of a terrorist attack on the White House, and the President’s safety left in the hands of a rogue law enforcer, will be equally matched in White House Down this Autumn. However, Fuqua has ensured that this is certainly no prelude to Roland Emmerich’s effort – as Olympus Has Fallen is raising the bar, as a good old-fashioned action flick that guarantees an entertaining and worthwhile trip to the cinema.
Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a former Presidential guard who was fired having failed to save President Benjamin Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) wife, in the car accident that widowed the leader of America. However, Banning has the chance to make amends, when a terrorist attack on the White House, led by North Korean assailant Kang (Rick Yune), sees the President kept hostage, so – working vigorously with national security, and in particular Speaker Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) – Banning uses his inside knowledge to not only save Asher, but the whole of the United States.
Olympus Has Fallen is ridiculously good fun, being a trashy and overstated action thriller that revels in such an approach, thriving within its own frivolity. If the filmmakers have evidently had such a good time making this production, there really is only one way to receive this – in exactly the same manner. The script lives dangerously close to being absurd and appalling, but just stays on the right side of being acceptable, and is instead celebrated for its plethora of memorable one-liners, such as “Let’s play a game of fuck off. You go first.”
The one problem with this title, however, is that at times we do move towards more serious and thought-provoking scenes which simply seem out of place, and at points make you question just how much of this title really is purposely over the top. The one area where you do find yourself cringing, is within the self-pitying patriotism. There are a few too many uses of the words “President of the United States of America” in the most long-winded, theatrical way possible, with emphasis on the latter word. Such sentimentality at points is well combated with some fierce and fiery sequences, as a film that doesn’t shy away from being violent and barbaric. However, such an immoderate use of aggression becomes so excessive that it seems almost cartoon like, or from a video game – and as such this detracts from the significance of the situation.
In this respect, Olympus Has Fallen has a lot to thank Die Hard for: a clear and definite influence on Fuqua’s direction, with a film that feels closer to the original Die Hard than the latest entry into that particular franchise. Although Butler is not quite as charismatic or carefree as Bruce Willis, he does a fine job as the hero of the piece, as an actor who really comes into his element in big action movies. He should lay off the romantic comedies for a while. His last feature Playing for Keeps felt painfully like a film that has come straight out of the mid 1990’s, whilst ironically this film is brilliantly reminiscent of action movies from the exact same time. In the meantime, there is something quite empowering about the fact that the future of America lies solely in the hands of a Scotsman.
Olympus Has Fallen is just riotously entertaining, and although nothing particularly new or original, it manages to keep you captivated and takes the viewer on one hell of a ride. There may be a handful of faults, but it doesn’t seem worth pointing them out, as it’s a film that is unapologetically and immensely enjoyable garbage. Any film that ends on the line “God bless the United States of America” needs to keep its tongue very firmly in its cheek.