Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen

daniel cohen is on the mount …

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Plot: When a North Korean terrorist (Rick Yune) takes control of the White House and the President’s (Aaron Eckhart) underground bunker, it’s up to former secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to rescue him before the terrorist unleashes his master plan.

It’s refreshing to see a 90s-style action movie in today’s cinema. Are they cheesy? Yes. Are they full of plot holes? Yes. Does the dialogue make you cringe at times? Yes. Are they absolutely bad ass … hell yeah.

Olympus Has Fallen takes a page from the days of Speed, Face/Off, and most notably, Air Force One. Finally, an action movie where the characters are likable and fun, have quippy one-liners, and it’s not just noise, explosions, and CG (Cough *Transformers* Cough). And even though Olympus Has Fallen is just as ridiculous as Transformers or Fast and the Furious, it blows them out of the water because we care about the characters more than the flashy cars or obscene explosions. But then again, Olympus Has Fallen is also blessed with a really good cast.

Gerard Butler is a guy who’s been absolutely blasted the last few years. We saw him kick ass in 300, and then for whatever reason he did a bunch of terrible romantic comedies. Now I’ve only seen one of his rom-coms, last year’s Playing For Keeps. Playing For Keeps was absolutely destroyed by critics, but I thought it was perfectly fine, and even in a very weak film, I could see Butler was a talented dude. He finally gets to do what he was born to do, which is be an action star. I hope this gives him a second chance, and we can start seeing the career he should have been having the last few years. He’s great in this, just kicking terrorist ass all over the place. And his one-liners aren’t even that good, but Butler actually sells them. He’s also unquestionably someone you want to root for. This role fit him like a glove.

But it’s not just Butler. We get a great supporting cast here as well. Aaron Eckhart is perfect as the President, and has one truly awesome delivery of the classic ‘don’t negotiate with terrorists’ line as he’s held at gun point. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. Angela Basset has a great bit in the film. Rick Yune plays a classic villain, always 10 steps ahead of everyone else. Dylan McDermott, an actor I’ve always hated, has actually been growing on me lately playing these absolute sleazebags, as he does here once again.

But the actress who stole the show for me was Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense. For a movie like this, she actually got to do some real acting. Without spoiling too much, there’s a moment where she shows just how tough she truly is, and it’s awesome, albeit a bit hard to watch. One of my other favorite moments of the film involves her being forced to walk out on the front steps of the White House as it’s occupied, and it is an absolutely gut wrenching scene.

The action in general is a great mix of quiet tension, where Butler’s character Banning sneaks around, taking out people left and right. But we also get the more straight forward set pieces of the terrorists storming the gates of the White House. It’s all filmed extremely well, no shaky cam bull shit to be found.

Now certainly when you make an action movie like this, it’s going to have plenty of pitfalls. The dialogue, especially at the beginning is pretty terrible. And while the film escapes being over the top for the most part, there’s a couple laughable moments. One of the news casters reacting to the destruction of the White House is supposed to be this big emotional moment, but it comes off as really silly. And even though I love Melissa Leo’s performance, there’s a point where she’s being dragged out as she starts doing the pledge of allegiance, which was a little much.

It’s also got a shit load of cliches. Yeah, we get the shamed former bodyguard getting a chance at redemption, there’s a big countdown at the end that needs to be stopped in the nick of time, and we even get the dumb general making all the wrong calls, played wonderfully by Robert Forster. His name is General Clegg. Really? General Clegg? How much more hard nosed General can you get …

I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is an intelligent movie. The premise alone is pretty ridiculous. In fact, they made it look so easy to storm the White House, I literally reached down for my popcorn at one point, and when I looked back up, the White House was over taken. There are also plot points in the third act that were confusing, and completely breezed over. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had an absolute blast with this movie. This is the kind of action movie that needs to be resurrected. It’s not a 150 minute shit fest with indecipherable action, flat characters, piss poor acting, and cringe-worthy humor. It’s just the good guy taking out the bad guys … old school.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.