<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser
We’ve all seen movies about attacks or threats of attack on the President of the USA, but never before right at his (White) House. And never in such a chilling and cadaverous way as depicted in Olympus Has Fallen.
Hollywood’s penchant with films showing their own country being attacked by foreign and domestic enemies never ceases. Not even after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre that were far more real and scarier than any movie has ever depicted. Until maybe this one.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is Secret Service Chief on President Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) personal detail but a freak accident in inclement weather on the way from Camp David leads to Asher’s wife, the First Lady (Ashley Judd) dying because Bannig was only able to save the President. Memories can be a terrible thing and Banning is banished to the Treasury Department and a desk job that leaves him dissatisfied and unable to forgive himself.
The film’s pacing quickly gives Banning and the viewers a chance to see him redeem himself. Because a South Korean delegation visiting the White House and President Asher are just a ruse to infiltrate the ‘world’s most heavily guarded building’! In a takeover scene that is truly shocking with its utter and complete disregard for human life, with its wanton bloodshed, its gut wrenching assault on what – whether we hold the USA in high regard or loathe them for their interfering grandstanding – we consider to be a historic world landmark and seat of power, the director Antoine Fuqua has created one of the most power packed and terrifying scenes in an action thriller in the modern day. You’ll feel like you’re in the midst of a real terror attack and nothing about it will seem contrived to you.
Of course, this gives our hero Banning (situated in the Treasury Dept. Building next door to the White House) the opportunity to put his skills to the test of saving the day. Okay so hundreds of police, secret service agents and civilians are killed in the attack but one man with a handgun manages to push through and get into the besieged White House… Why not?
Now some people in the critics’ pool thought the whole premise was laughable but need I remind them that there have been films with a similar premise that are today considered great action movies. Die Hard anyone? No not the last A Good Day to Die Hard, which was crap. And though Gerard Butler is no Bruce Willis, Olympus Has Fallen is a far better Die Hard film than the last two Die Hard movies.
If you’re someone who is squeamish or not fond of bloody violence you may wince at some of the scenes. One involves the terrorist leader Kang (Rick Yune, remember him from Die Another Day) brutally knocking the shit out of Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo). No punches or editing cuts are spared. Oh and the music is high octane adrenalin complementing the heavy duty action and some relatively okay special effects (CGI companies going bankrupt in Hollywood showing in the product now!).
Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House who must become Acting President, make some tough decisions and ‘use’ Banning to save the President’s little son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) and maybe retake the White House before a secret Cerebrus code is entered that will wreak nuclear havoc.
Aaron Ekhart as the President, Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director along with the huge cast are all rock solid in their performances. Which is good considering Gerard Butler (also a producer on the movie) isn’t an action hero in the right of Willis, Stallone or Schwarzenegger. But he’s more than adequate in a film as hard hitting with its use of death and bloodshed as this one.
PS: Olympus is the code name for the White House just as POTUS/The Package is the code for the President Of The United States. Do expect the formulaic American flag waving at the end though!