Olympus is Full of Mindless Fun
The action movie genre is an acquired taste. Viewers can sometimes get a very intelligent and well developed action movie that has sympathetic and likable characters, or an action movie that has an “old school” mentality where cheesy one-liners and completely unstoppable heroes take center stage. Olympus Has Fallen wants to be the former, as part of its story has an actual real-world threat, but the film is populated by typical cliches and over the top, exhausting action scenes. Luckily, the film never becomes terrible and it balances a fine line between mindless fun and just plain mindless.
Olympus Has Fallen stars Gerard Butler as Mike Benning, a former Secret Service agent who is now working at the United States Treasury. Benning was released after a tragic accident that involved President Benjamin Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) wife. Many months later, Benning is stuck at a low end job because of the tragedy; meanwhile, the President is meeting with the Prime Minister of South Korea. An even bigger tragedy strikes when the Prime Minister’s body guard Kang Yeonsak, played by Rick Yune, is revealed to be a terrorist who takes the President and the Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillian (Melissa Leo) hostage along with help from Secret Service agent, Dave Forbes, played by Dylan McDermott. The Speaker of the House, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), teams up with the head of the Secret Service, Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) and with the returned Benning to take out these terrorists and free the White House.
It is great to say that the gun fights and other action scenes are well shot and well done. The shots of the destruction, while a little bit too heavy on the explosions, give the audience a great sense of the chaos that is going on in Washington D.C.. The action sequences are gratuitous, yet satisfying to the audience, and are never too gory. The action gets the job done and is a blast to watch throughout.
Another great part of Olympus Has Fallen is that it uses its impressively star-studded cast well. Not to absolute perfection, but good enough to keep the film moving. Gerard Butler channels his inner John McClane by constantly taunting the villains and wise-cracking throughout the action scenes. This role solidifies him as a bona fide action hero. Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett all turn in solid performances in their respective roles as well. Freeman himself brings some subtle intensity to his role of Allan Turnbull, while both Rick Yune and Dylan McDermott are great villains. Kang is a calculating terrorist who kills and tortures without mercy or emotion and Forbes makes a great henchman equal to Benning.
The movie tries so hard to be taken seriously, but, in all honesty, there is little beyond typical action movie cliches. There are slow motion effects and many instances of melodrama and absolute ridiculousness that make Olympus Has Fallen look like a parody of the nonsensical and ludicrous action movies that seem to come out around the summer. Unfortunately, a lot of these motifs and tropes are supposed to be taken seriously in this movie, like the “tragic past” of the main lead. It does seem very predictable to any hard core action movie fan.
There is also a sense of “‘Murica! F*** Yeah!” throughout the film as well; it almost comes off as a piece of propoganda against the Koreans. Even the premise itself is completely outrageous to be seen as something that could really happen on American soil. Some of the special effects look terrible too! They look more like a video game rather than a big budget action movie.
Olympus Has Fallen is nothing more than some great action scenes sprinkled in with an unbelievable premise, very reminiscent of Die Hard. Is it silly? Of course, but some of the best action movies of all time are so over the top that it becomes endearing. If the audience can just enjoy something unintelligent and fun, then Olympus Has Fallen will provide them with some admittedly solid acting to go along with the joyride.