Gerard Butler leads the cast of Olympus Has Fallen as Mike Banning, an ex-Presidential Guard who finds himself trapped inside the White House after it’s attacked by an international terrorist organisation. By being the only intelligence inside the building, the fate of the President, and the entire country of America, lies with Banning. Can he stop the mastermind from detonating nuclear missiles?
Olympus Has Fallen contains many of the elements that make an old school actioner from yesteryear: an admittedly ridiculous premise, a one man army, a foreign threat and nuclear weaponry. There’s one thing missing though, and it’s arguably the most important ingredient: fun. From the start of the assault on Olympus (that’s the code name for the White House), the film has a nasty streak that’s hard to ignore. The violence is ugly, with the body count being uncomfortably high. This isn’t your typical ‘shoot ‘n run’ picture either: the deaths are cold and merciless, from both the antagonists and Banning. I’m no prude, nor am I against violence in movies, but the level that is visible here is unnecessary.
Butler grimaces his way through the role, barely cracking a smile. This is forgivable, but the absence of one liners is not: there’s a few occasions where Banning attempts to make a smart remark, but they are eyerollingly feeble. Aaron Eckhart plays the stricken President, but can’t shake the typecast of pre-TwoFace Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight. Morgan Freeman, who can be seen in two supporting roles in as many weeks with his appearance in Oblivion, isn’t challenged in his role as Acting President Trumball, but is far more comfortable in this position than he looks in the Tom Cruise vehicle.
Plot wise, Olympus plays out like an inferior Die Hard, for all the points I mentioned above. Bizarrely, it’s no where near as pro-American as I had anticipated: in fact, screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt have succeeded in highlighting the ineptitude of Secret Service Operatives, who appear to forget even the most basic of combat training. It’s not just the good guys who are stupid though – the nuclear weapon based narrative has a major flaw that, in reality, would mean there’s no threat from his group whatsoever.
Featuring an unremarkable lead actor, hyper-violent action scenes and a hole-ridden plot, Olympus Has Fallen is a tedious and forgettable affair. Maybe Roland Emmerich can do a better job of attacking the White House later this year, with his effects heavy White House Down: It surely can’t be any worse.