Review: Olympus Has Fallen
PLOT: A demoted secret service agent, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), is the nation's only hope when Washington D.C is attacked by North Korean terrorists, who seize the White House and the president (Aaron Eckhart).
REVIEW: Remember the nineties? Back then, the “DIE HARD on a...” genre was the go-to formula for action movies. There was SPEED (DIE HARD on a bus), UNDER SIEGE (DIE HARD on a ship), PASSENGER 57 (DIE HARD on a plane), etc. Heck, the genre was so popular, even the clones started to get clones of their own. Remember CHILL FACTOR (SPEED in an Ice Cream truck, and yes, it's a real movie)? It's therefore amazing that Hollywood has taken this long to crank out a “DIE HARD in the White House” variation, although to make up for it- this year- we're not only getting the tent-pole WHITE HOUSE DOWN, but also this week's entry- OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.
While WHITE HOUSE DOWN probably has the bigger budget, this one has the cooler title. It also has Antoine Fuqua calling the shots. While I haven't liked all of his movies, it can't be denied that the man knows how to shoot action, and OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is all action, and R-rated to boot. You'd swear it was the nineties again.
For star Gerard Butler- who's found himself in a slew of pretty bad movies over the last few years- OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is a major comeback to the type of role he does best. As our hero, Banning, Butler is unusually clean-cut- clean shaven with a tidy haircut- and suits the part of a badass secret service agent, duty bound to rescue his commander and chief. It plays to all of his strengths, with Fuqua giving Butler ample to opportunity to engage in quick and dirty hand-to-hand scraps, and tons of blazing firefights. Butler always delivers in action roles, and this really feels like the kind of movie his built-in audience will go for. There's definitely not a lot of emoting going on, but Butler looks tough and throws off the occasional menacing one-liner with aplomb (although typical for Fuqua, the tone is kept pretty serious).
Outside Butler, the rest of the cast is surprisingly good for a hard action flick, and obviously producers- Millennium Films - were trying to class it up a bit. Aaron Eckhart makes a likable commander-in-chief, although given that he spends almost the entire film tied up, don't expect him to be another action hero president like Harrison Ford in AIR FORCE ONE. This is Butler's show. Morgan Freeman, who played the prez in DEEP IMPACT, is on hand as the speaker of the house, who's made the acting president upon Eckhart's capture. He's not really called on to do much other than act authoritative, which is Freeman to a T, so he suits the role. The most impressive acting in the movie comes from Melissa Leo as the defiant Secretary of State, who suffers a really brutal beating at the hands of baddie Rick Yune towards the middle of the film. Leo takes what could have been a paycheck role and gives it gravitas.
Over the two hour running time, Fuqua doesn't waste a heck of a lot of time on plot, which is probably a good thing as the script feels a more than a tad thin. The way the North Korean terrorists attack the White House really strains credibility, and this is certainly a “turn your brain off” kind of ride, not that there's anything wrong with that. The terrorists are pretty generic, and even the big baddie, Rick Yune, isn't given much to do other than act mean, and administer beatings. However, my biggest complaint about OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN isn't the lack of depth for the villains, but rather the murky look of the film. DP Conrad W. Hall shrouds most of the action scenes in darkness, as the White House loses power early on. This is understandable, but I wish a better lighting scheme had been found. The movie never looks bad, but I was lucky enough to see it in a top-notch theater. This is the kind of movie that could easily be made indecipherable if the projection isn't perfectly calibrated. Moreover, wall-to-wall darkness is boring, and doesn't do the fight choreography (which seems good) any favors.
The CGI, which is used a lot, is also pretty dodgy, although it seems like less of a liability than the cinematography. Given the scale of the film, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN could have easily cost twice what it ended up as, and the FX suffers as a result. The initial attack on DC-including an aerial assault- probably needed a much bigger FX budget to be pulled off convincingly. Once again though, Fuqua has to be given credit for not backing off on the carnage, making the attack seem horrific and scary.
Flaws aside, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN still really delivers a solid two hours of entertainment. It remains to be seen what kind of movie WHITE HOUSE DOWN is going to end up being, but I doubt it'll be as hardcore as Fuqua's movie. As a pure action exercise, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN really delivers. Gerard Butler fans,who've spent years waiting for this, and hardcore action junkies are going to be very pleased.
|Extra Tidbit:||OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is way, WAY better than A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD.|