Olympus Has Fallen

Butler plays Mike Banning, a former U.S. Army Ranger who is the lead Secret Service agent on President Benjamin Asher’s (Eckhart) detail. Tragedy strikes one snowy night, when the President’s limo hurtles into the side of a bridge while on its way to a fundraiser. As the vehicle slides in to the frozen water below, Banning yanks out Asher but is unable to save the First Lady, Margaret (Ashley Judd). 18 months later, this failure leaves him demoted to a desk job at the US Treasury and plagued by regrets that heavily hinder his his personal life. The President continued to valiantly soldier on, caring for his son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) and attending to the business of state.

One of those issues is North Korea’s sudden military mobilization in close quarters to the designated demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates it from South Korea. Prime Minister Lee (Keong Sim) arrives in a bid to discuss a solution to the problem and strengthen alliances with America. Unfortunately, the man he assumes is his trusty aide turns out to be Kang Yeonsak (Yune), the leader of a terrorist group bent on the reunification of Korea. His game plan: the most powerful man in the world hostage and demolish his symbol of power. There’s only one kink in this operation and his name is Mike Banning.

For a generation raised on Die Hards and Under Sieges, Olympus has Fallen will probably a bit old hat. But don’t think for one minute that this is even remotely bad thing! For years now we’ve been lamenting the drop in standard when it comes to action films. The classics weren’t just gritty adrenaline pumpers but stories that exposed society’s fear of the moment and spawned the kind of dark quips that stand the test of time to be quoted even today. Olympus has Fallen returns the genre to this glory. The genre regulars are all in attendance: the rough around the edges but somehow charismatic hero, the maniacal baddy with plans for world domination and enough gun fights and explosions to leave you a little blind. But what makes it a proper good time is Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikta’s script, which actually makes sense: every character has a point and a part to play while all the fight scenes are filmed with enough room to see the skill without making you feeling separated from the intensity of the action. Antoine Fuqua effectively intercuts between the different locations and events, integrating them into the whole and making the ride a seamless roller-coaster ride.

Gerard Butler has become a steady member of the action hero brotherhood. With movies like 300 and Gamer already under his belt, he fits in quite well to the persona of a hardened and experience military man and it’s where he excels. He looks genuinely capable in the hand-to-hand fights (of which there are happily many), perfectly comfortable with the various firearms and manages to deliver one liners with plenty of conviction. Aaron Eckhart plays President Asher as an all-round good guy: he’s a committed and loving family man, a peace-loving but fierce leader and a man that has no qualms when it come to dying for his country. Doesn’t sound like any politician we’ve ever known but hey! Morgan Freeman is Speaker of the House turned Acting President, Allan Trumbull, and as usual is magnificent in portraying a man caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one side he has a duty to get his Commander in Chief out alive while on the other he must protect the safety of not just his country but the world as well. As an actor Freeman has stature and immediate respect, which comes in handy here given that his character requires a certain weight to be believable.

Any movie that heavily features the American flag in its poster is quite obviously going to have a lot of “Hoo-rah” sentiment going on and there is no shortage of that in Olympus has Fallen. In fact it’s haemorrhaging so much patriotism, we’re surprised it wasn’t slated for July 4th release instead of the non-committal April 17th. In previous eras, it was the Cubans, Russians and Chinese who occupied the ranks of U.S. foes. Nowadays this option is problematic since they’ve all been playing nice so it was probably a good shout to move on to someone who’s just not being as congenial. But unlike Red Dawn, Olympus has Fallen smartly sidesteps sticky political outrage by blaming a separatist group with North Korean loyalty. The terrorist association also allows the script to get a bit more graphic with the violence. Kang’s army isn’t just strictly organized and well-prepared, they are merciless in their brutality and ruthless in their quest. The body count is off the scale and any stirrings in our sympathy are quickly stamped out by the nasty nature of Kang.

Olympus has Fallen revives everything great about action blockbusters. You’ll root for the unfailing hero, wish nothing but death upon the despicable enemy and possibly even refrain from blinking just so you don’t miss even a millisecond of all the action. It might be over the top with American verve but that doesn’t stop it from being a cracking good time anyway.

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