OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
1995 called. They want their movie back.
Olympus Has Fallen, the newest film from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, has just about every clichéd character, relationship, plotline, exchange of dialogue, and even actor (I’m looking at you, Ashley Judd) from the explosion-filled “Get off my plane!” era.
The movie stars Gerard Butler as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher, and Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (if Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House isn’t straight out of a ‘90s disaster film, I don’t know what is). Banning is the head of Presidential detail, and is also close friends with the President (illustrated right off the bat with a strange scene in which Banning is helping the President perfect his boxing skills at Camp David). In the opening act, Banning’s world is rocked when a car accident claims the life of the first lady (played by the previously mentioned Judd). The rest of the film takes place 18 months later, as Banning is torn up over the fact that he saved the President but not the first lady, so he has been working a desk job since the incident. Banning is called back to duty, however, when a group of North Korean militants attack the White House in an attempt to deploy nuclear weapons across the United States, and he must save the President from his captors.
One thing that does separate Olympus Has Fallen from similar films—although not necessarily in a good way—is the violence. The scene in which the aforementioned militants take over the White House is one of the bloodiest gore-fests since Saving Private Ryan, and it lasts way longer than it needs to. People are shot, missile launched, and run over for what seems like 20 minutes, as Gerard Butler attempts to make his way inside to save the President. Instead of making the film exciting, it just feels gratuitous.
It makes sense that Gerard Butler is a star. He’s handsome, charming, and he has that certain je ne sais quoi. He’s also pretty boring. Sure, his portrayal of Mike Banning is believable enough—I buy him as a Secret Service Agent. He has some good scenes with the first kid, played by Marmaduke’s Finley Jacobsen, and some good scenes with Aaron Eckhart. But he’s not that interesting. He makes some obvious choices, which adds to the “Haven’t I seen this movie before?” vibe that the film gives off, and his accent fluctuates between New York cab driver and British MMA fighter. Would a more interesting lead make this movie that much better? Probably not, but Butler’s take doesn’t do the film too many favors.
It’s hard to find too many bright spots in the movie. While it never fully tanks—the audience is at least (and really, at most) mildly engaged throughout the film—it never takes off, either. Clichés are spouted left and right, almost as if the film were an action movie parody, and you never really care about what’s going to happen next. Aaron Eckhart does an admirable job, but he does not feel like the President. Harrison Ford, Martin Sheen, Bill Pullman (think Independence Day and not 1600 Penn) and many others have filled those shoes on the big and small screen with excellent results. Nothing against Aaron Eckhart, but you never really feel like he has the weight of the country on his shoulders. He can box, but that’s about it.
An exorbitant amount of violence, a poorly conceived and extremely derivative script, and a slew of miscast actors leads to a film that you can easily go without seeing. It is blah from the beginning and it never gets to where it wants to go. It is particularly disappointing, because it occasionally attempts to connect the plot with topical political issues (nuclear weapon threats, conflict between North Korea and the rest of the world, etc.), but the material never feels like more than the action movie equivalent of an SNL skit. Do yourself a favor and dust off that Patriot Games DVD instead.