Olympus has Fallen is the movie that the producers of 24 probably wanted to make, eventually, and that a Die Hard 6 may aspire to be, someday. But Jack Bauer and John McClane may want to pack up and go home, ‘cause there’s a new anti-terrorism badass in town. And his name is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). Olympus Has Fallen is a superficial but satisfying thriller that I really liked when I wasn’t averting my eyes. So, I guess that means I really liked about two-thirds of the movie. Or maybe it was one-third. I’m not really sure. Seriously, I haven’t looked away from a screen so much – and for so long – since the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. The carnage is that intense. But strip away the mass amount of destruction, bodies, bullets, bombs and bloodshed, and you’ve got a good ol’ fashioned entertaining action flick. Maybe even a good date movie! Yup, here’s why:
Gerard Butler is hot. Okay, perhaps there’s more to it, because Butler can be hit or miss (I mean, c’mon, did anyone see Playing for Keeps?). Fortunately, his role in this movie really suits him. He gets to be charming, witty, formidable and fierce – a guy with killer instincts and a soft side. Butler plays Mike Banning, the well-liked head of the President’s secret service detail. That is, until a tragic accident involving the First Family results in Mike getting banished to the Treasury Department.
Banning gets his shot at personal and professional redemption when a group of North Korean terrorists take over the White House (code name: Olympus) and hold the President and key cabinet members hostage in a heavily-fortified bunker. Amidst all the chaos, Banning slips into the White House and uses his intimate knowledge of the place to wage a one-man war against the terrorists. He’s determined to rescue the President – and preserve the fate of the nation – or die trying. ‘Cause that’s just the kind of guy he is.
Butler is surrounded by a solid cast that includes Aaron Eckhart as President Asher, Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House who becomes Acting President, Melissa Leo as the feisty Secretary of Defense and Angela Bassett as the Director of the Secret Service. Senator-wannabe Ashley Judd makes an appearance as the First Lady.
Olympus Has Fallen is essentially Air Force One on the ground, with a bit of Independence Day, Die Hard, and a bunch of other action movies thrown in. Or maybe a two-hour special of 24, without commercials. In other words, you’ve seen it all before in some capacity. But the movie still works for what it is – an edge-of-your-seat thriller with a plot that is just plausible enough to give most everyone pause, except perhaps Dennis Rodman. It’s good versus evil. Banning versus a North Korean psycho.
Olympus has the benefit of being first out of the gate ahead of two similar-looking movies – the testosterone-heavy franchise flick G.I. Joe: Retaliation out March 28th, and this summer’s star-studded White House Down, with Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) as the Secret Service agent protecting the President played by Jamie Foxx. I don’t think Tatum strips in that one… but I may have to check it out anyway. You know, for comparison’s sake.