The White House is in danger (again). When “Olympus” (i.e. secret code name for the President’s abode) is taken over by hostile forces, a disavowed former member of the President’s protectors is also held in the building. Banning (Butler) must help the outside forces to retake the White House and protect the rest of the country from the terrorists.
Director Antoine Fuqua was at the helm of Shooter, King Arthur and Tears of the Sun, and Olympus Has Fallen adds to his roster of mostly adequate films. Relying heavily on American audiences’ sense of patriotism, the film frequently uses symbols of the US – such as the iconic flag – to rally the forces (and viewers) together. You could argue that Olympus Has Fallen is a satire, but given its marketing – the typically patriotic trailer – the references seem to be a bid to cover the film’s weaker aspects.
One of these is the film’s lack of good pacing. Though the film rattles along, it feels as if the Koreans have literally just shown up at the White House before they’re swarming the place. The flash-bang action sequences roll in one after the other, without much pause for thought.
On the positive side, Butler tries his damnedest to be a good action hero, and it is one of his few recent vehicles that he actually does very well in. There are some good scenes between the President’s son (played by Cole Hauser) and Banning, but the film is really all about the goodies taking down the baddies in one big firefight.
Morgan Freeman has proven his Presidential mettle before, so it’s not a surprise that he becomes Acting President Allan Trumball here. Aaron Eckhart, whilst an excellent choice for the squeaky-clean politician, seems to lack the near-regal bearing that comes with presidential status but does a passable job as President Asher. Dylan MacDermott plays the sneaky traitor well, and Rick Yune makes a surprisingly convincing undercover terrorist (perhaps something to do with his innocuous spectacles at the beginning).
It’s a blockbuster, that’s for sure, though whether it will be remembered a couple of years down the line is anyone’s guess.
By Richard Li-Fisker