Movie review: Olympus Has Fallen’ will have you cheering
There are all sorts of lessons to be learned in this violent, exciting, flag-waving chunk of action cinema.
One: When a knowledgeable military person radios his chopper pilots with the warning, “Be on the lookout for possible advanced weaponry,” pay attention.
Two: When you’re a depraved bad guy, and a vengeful good guy says to you, “I’m gonna stick my knife through your brain,” take heed.
You’ve probably figured out that the Olympus of the title has nothing to do with Greece and Sparta, even though Gerard Butler, who starred in “300,” is in the heroic lead here. Nope, in the world of this story’s Secret Service, Olympus is the code word for the White House. And it falls ... spectacularly.
After a brief, nail-biting preamble, in which we meet the happy presidential family – Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd and their son Finley Jacobsen – and the first lady is reduced to a cameo part, the film jumps ahead a year and a half. The still-sad president and his son are very close, TV reports and newspaper headlines go on and on about North Korean threats (how’s that for art and life imitating each other), and the prime minister of South Korea is about to arrive at the White House for discussions.
Hold on – and Mike Banning (Butler), one of the president’s closest Secret Service protectors, is no longer on the job, because ... (see first lady reference in preamble).
As happens so many times up on that big screen, things go wrong.
A large four-prop plane suddenly invades the air space over Washington, D.C., taking out people and landmarks in multiple bursts of gunfire, explosions and panic. That’s followed in short order by a coordinated – a very coordinated – attack on the White House, from the streets. I can’t recall seeing such chaos and destruction and death in a movie since the last time Godzilla rose out of the sea.
Then things get worse. The president is taken captive in his own bunker, the terrorists reveal themselves – through their charismatic, smart, coldblooded and very dangerous leader, Kang (Rick Yune) – to be not North Korean, but members of a renegade group called the United People’s Front. Impossible military-related demands are made, hostages are killed, officials hole up in the Pentagon’s Crisis Room, where Speaker of the House Martin Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) is named acting president.
Ah, but Mike Banning is still around, and he has sneaked into the blood-spattered, bullet-riddled White House and armed himself heavily and is, by the way, ex-Special Forces. You know where this film is headed. It’s effortlessly going to turn into one of those one man-against-the-world deals. There will be gunfights and knife fights and fistfights and even a tense countdown against a ticking clock, along with an air of unrelenting viciousness. Director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Brooklyn’s Finest”) even manages to find the exact right spots to insert a few quiet moments for a little character development.
The film begins and ends with sweeping shots of the American flag. Butler makes great hero material. Patriotism will sweep through audiences. And since the story all takes place in one day, there’s really no need for that “24” movie now.
Ed Symkus covers movies for GateHouse Media.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
Written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt; directed by Antoine Fuqua
With Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Rick Yune