By Jon Gallagher
Olympus Has Fallen (Millennium Films, 2013) Director: Antoine Fuqua. Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Angela Bassett, and Melissa Leo. Color, 120 minutes.
When I decided to go check out this movie, I figured I could write the review before I even got in the car to go. In fact, I had pretty much just decided to use the review for A Good Day to Die Hard and just change the names of the characters. You know, “things blow up, there’s some shooting, and more things blow up.” I’m lazy like that.
Instead, I was shocked to find myself in a theater where I was actually enjoying the movie, waiting for that moment when everything fell apart. It never did.
Having said that, I need to throw in a few disclaimers. First of all, this is pure fantasy. What happens in the movie could not ever happen in real life. If you’re a stickler for things like that, you’ll probably be disappointed. However, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief for a couple hours like I did, then I think you’ll be as entertained as I was. Also, you need to accept that unless a character has been dismembered, he may not be as injured as he first appears to be.
The movie actually has a plot. It opens with President Benjamin Archer (Eckhart) and family leaving Camp David on a snowy night for a Christmas party at a billionaire’s house. On a bridge, The Beast (the super-armored presidential limousine) slides out of control and perches itself half on, half off a bridge. Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) races to the president’s and first lady’s aid, and manages to pull the president to safety before the car topples over the bridge, sending Mrs. Archer to her death.
Six months later, the president is still recovering from the traumatic experience, as is his young son (Jacobsen), who was riding in a separate car and witnessed his mother’s death. Banning has been taken off the presidential detail, not because he did anything wrong, but more because he reminds the president of that horrible night. The White House is set to welcome a contingent from Korea for talks when all hell breaks loose.
With the Korean diplomats in the White House already, a plane takes aim at Washington. Disguised as an Air Force transport, the plane, piloted by Koreans, begins shooting the two real Air Force jets that intercept it, civilians on the street, the roof of the White House, and then crash lands on the South Lawn just after taking off the top part of the Washington Monument. A well-orchestrated siege on the Executive Mansion begins and before long, Korean terrorists have control of the building.
In the meantime, inside the White House, Secret Service agents grab the president and his guests, and shuttle them off to safety in the “Bunker,” an underground safe haven for the president that’s built to be impenetrable, even by nuclear war. Therein lies the problem because most of the Korean diplomats are terrorists themselves, and they now have, not just the president, but two other members of his cabinet who hold launch codes (or as it turns out, anti-launch codes) for America’s nuclear arsenal. All three codes must be entered at once and the terrorists begin to extract the codes from the three who have them. Naturally, the Bunker has all the computers needed for nuclear launches.
Banning is outside the White House when the shooting begins, but he uses his training as an ex-Army Ranger and his intimate knowledge of the White House to get inside and begin disrupting terrorist plans. He has to save the president’s son Connor, and the president himself.
The basic formula is that of the original Die Hard: one guy vs. a bunch of others who capture a stronghold with hostages (who they kill one at a time when they don’t get their way). There are plenty of twists along the way (they’re too good to give up here, even with a spoiler alert) and tension is kept high throughout. Even when there is a resolution of sorts, it’s always a small victory for the good guys before the bad guys come up with something more sinister. There’s a scene that resembles when John McLain meets Hans Gruber without knowing he’s the bad guy.
Also reminiscent of Die Hard is the apparent indestructibility of Banning. He gets the holy snot beat out of him, but somehow manages to keep going, much like McLain in Die Hard. If you can get by that small detail, it’s one heck of a ride.
There isn’t a bad performance in the movie. Banning is particularly good, especially his American accent (Butler is an Australian). Freeman handles his role as Acting President (since the President and Vice President are both incapacitated and he’s next in line as Speaker of the House) well. My only complaint with him is not with his acting, but with the character itself. I might have made him a little less laid back, but I guess his easy-going nature was needed to balance out an already tension filled film. McDermott as Agent Forbes, and Yune as terrorist Kang, turn in performances worthy of mention too. Yune comes off being very believable as a sinister villain.
There are lots of things that blow up and there’s an excessive amount of blood. The folks in the CGI department worked overtime on this one.
I’m going to give this one an A+ as I was so entertained by the movie. Everyone around me did too as they cheered at the end. On the way out, I heard a lot of positive comments. I’ll definitely rent it when it comes out, and could be persuaded to purchase it as well. If it comes to the theatre across the street from me (yes, I literally live across from a theater), I’ll go again. Unlike the idiots who sat down the row from me, I won’t allow my eight-year-old to see it until she’s at least 16. By then, she won’t want to because of the blood and gore.
Since it’s been 25 years (are you serious?!?!) since Die Hard came out, many younger fans may have found a way not to have seen it. Olympus Has Fallen may well become this generation’s Die Hard. I would count on Agent Banning making his appearance in another movie, especially if this one does well at the box office.