When the President of the United States is taken hostage by a terrorist mastermind, can a disgraced secret service agent save him? From the director of Training Day comes Olympus Has Fallen from FilmDistrict starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart. Is this film the action film comeback of Gerard Butler or is it basically Die Hard at the White House?
It’s Christmas time for President Benjamin Asher and his family at Camp David. The weather outside is cold and rough, but he has to make an appearance at a reelection benefit with his wife and son. Senior Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is in charge of the presidential detail and motorcade. Along the way, a freak motor vehicle accident causes the presidential limousine to spin out an teeter on the edge of a bridge. Fast acting, Banning races to rescue the President and the First Lady. He cuts the President out of his seat belt, but is too late to save the first lady as the limo falls off the bridge into the ice covered water below. Disgraced, Banning accepts a transfer to the Treasury Department, not because he didn’t make the right decision, but because President Asher is reminded of the tragedy every time he sees Mike.
Meanwhile in world news, tensions are high in North and South Korea. They are on the brink of war. A special South Korean ambassador arrives with his security force for a meeting with the President, but the meeting is interrupted as an AC-130 Gunship flies over Washington D.C. and opens fire on the citizens and the White House. It’s blown out of the sky by fighter jets, but that’s only the first wave of the attack. terrorists dressed as tourists breach the gates of the White House (Secret Service Code: “Olympus”) and storm the front lawn. For their safety, President Asher and his staff are immediately escorted along with the Korean Ambassador to a secret underground bunker, but that was the plan of the attackers disguised at the Ambassadors security unit. “Olympus” has fallen and the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense are all held hostage.
As the attack is going on, Mike Banning races from the Treasury to the White House to see what’s going on and to see if his former partners are ok, but he’s too late. Mike is alone in the very location he’s been trained to defend. Can Agent Banning save the President and stop the terrorists from starting a global nuclear war.
Olympus Has Fallen simply put is “Die Hard at the White House” but not that shitty A Good Day to Die Hard version. I’m talking the original that had John McClane battling Hans Gruber in the Nakatomi Building. Gerard Butler (300/Gamer) plays Agent Mike Banning and just like John McClane, he’s a lone wolf against an army of heavily armed, highly trained bad guys. Instead of trying to rescue an estranged wife, Banning has to locate and rescue the President’s son, eliminate all the terrorists, save the President and stop a nuclear war. Now while It’s pretty predictable how the movie ends, getting there is an action packed explosion of bullets and knife fights. Another movie that follows the Die Hard formula that comes to mind is Under Siege starring Steven Seagal. What makes all these movies great is that, you have a believable underdog against formidable odds that you love to root for. Butler not only has some bad ass kills, but finishes them with awesome one liners that even Bruce Willis would be proud of. Butler’s motivation is to get the job done or die trying.
The Hans Gruber of the film is Kang Yeonsak played by Rick Yune (The Fast and the Furious/The Man with the Iron Fists). Kang is the mastermind behind a terrorist organization that wants to unify North and South Korea. Now while that sounds like an idea worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, it really means he wants to unify the countries by allowing them to finish their civil war that the United States interrupted during the Korean War. Yune was a really good bad guy. I think that him being a Bond villain before in Die Another Day helped a lot. He was brutal and calculating, but what really made him scary was how emotionless he was as he murdered the President’s staff one by one to show the world he meant business. Yune was such a cool bad guy, that when Butler’s character interacted him, it created an uproar from the audience.
The rest of the cast is jammed packed with Hollywood A-List stars to make the movie come together. The most notable are Aaron Eckhart as President Asher, Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House Trumbull and Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs. Every actor and actress in the film did a great part as pawns in their supporting roles as Butler and Yune played a mortal chess game of wits and bullets.
Most of the time the directors chosen for movies like this are ones that are inexperienced, former music video directors that the studio can get for cheap… or Michael Bay. Directing Olympus Has Fallen in Antoine Fuqua. Now while he isn’t a household name like Spielberg or Tarantino, you know his previous movies: Training Day with Denzel Washington, Shooter with Mark Wahlberg and Tears of the Sun with Bruce Willis. Fuqua did an awesome job with the movies pacing and action sequences. There was never a dull moment in the film, even during the set up of the opening act. If you are a fan of his previous movies, you are going to enjoy Olympus Has Fallen. What also made the movie so cool was its presidential ambiance. The movie had the cool fonts with the character’s title to introduce each major player in the story. The film’s score felt like an orchestral rendition of the soundtracks of popular military video games. And speaking of video games, if you played Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2, there is a part of the game when the White House (Code Name: Whiskey Hotel) is under attack. Olympus Has Fallen could have easily been the basis of a first or third person shooter game for Xbox 360 or PS3.
I had a really great time watching Olympus Has Fallen. While people may just call it a knock off of Die Hard, the movie gets the template correct and it does it with the same cat and mouse sophistication that we have all loved when Bruce Willis first played John McClane. The movie is filled with non-stop, jaw dropping, edge of your seat action and thrills. I also think the release of this movie is ironically a major coincidence with the threat of nuclear war from real-life North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un when he recently threatened the United States. You’ll love how amazingly intelligent the terrorists take over the White House, but you’ll love even more how Butler takes them out, especially in the “interrogation” scene. If you love movies like Die Hard, Under Siege, Executive Decision or other cool underdog action movies, then I highly recommend you skip A Good Day to Die Hard with extreme prejudice and check out Olympus Has Fallen.
PS. Be prepared for me to refer to this very review when White House Down hit theaters June 23, 2013.
In Theaters: March 22, 2013
Runtime: 118 min
Rating: R (for Language Throughout and Strong Violence)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd, Robert Forster, and Rick Yune
Genre: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller
Official Site: http://www.olympusmovie.com