Directed by Antoine Fuqua
March 18, 2013 (Hollywood) / March 22, 2013 (United States)
When a North Korean faction launches an attack against the White House, one man finds himself between them and the devastation of the United States.
I went into this feeling I was pretty much guaranteed a great action film. Gerard Butler is from an older mold of male celebrities who are manly men. He comes from the likes of John Wayne or Charlton Heston so I had faith this would be a great film. And I was not wrong.
Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning, a former Army Ranger who is a Secret Service agent now working in the Treasury Department having been removed from the White House detail following a road accident involving the First Family during bad weather. That is a mouthful. Banning craves to get back in on the action at the White House and does just that when he realizes something big and terrible is going on. Isn’t that always the way with the hero in these movies?
We have a pretty good cast here for an over-the-top actioner. Morgan Freeman shows up as Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull whom Banning in an off-camera moment told to go “F off.” Robert Forster is Army Chief of Staff General Edward Clegg who is continually trying to take charge of the situation from Speaker Trumbull. And who is leading the nation here? That is Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher who has a son (Finley Jacobsen) that is not annoyingly precocious which is a trap that director Antoine Fuqua could have easily fallen into.
In smaller yet important roles we have Ashley Judd as short-lived First Lady Margaret Asher and Dylan McDermott as Dave Forbes who is a former secret service agent that has lost his way and sided with the bad guys. Forbes has more time on screen than some other supporting characters and gets some good development though honestly his change of heart seems a little bit incongruous with his character prior. That is probably the weakest character moment in the film as it was a shortcut to get to the finale.
Rick Yune is Kang Yeonsak who is the chief villain of the film. He is a North Korean ultra nationalist (whatever that is) hiding among the South Korean entourage that has come to the White House. Yune was a fantastic villain. In spectacular fashion he and a group of North Korean agents have taken over the White House and wiped out just about everyone in there. It is an explosion filled gunship fueled crazy battle.
As preposterous as it may sound to someone that terrorists are able to take the White House and hold it they make it believable here. They start big and keep going and it helps in suspending your disbelief. I personally think this was a very good action film. The sequences are great and Butler had plenty of great one-liners as all action heroes need. In that respect it felt like an old school 80s action film. You want the hero to be a smarty-pants in these “Go America!” type action films and Butler’s character is certainly an asshole here.
I have not seen much of what Antoine Fuqua has done but he handles the action sequences brilliantly in this film. Nothing feels ridiculously over-the-top even though much of it actually is. But more importantly, and something that helps movies like this work, is a sense of patriotism when you are watching. Part of you may want it to happen because you know America would just kick ass. We all deep down believe in the idea of the lone hero that can save the day. It plays on our desire and our belief to see one person make a difference one person being able to overcome insanely impossible odds.
The story moves briskly and has an internal logic that it does not deviate from. There is no moment that makes you stop and go “That makes no sense!” There are no bad surprise moments in the plot. You know who the traitors are right off the bat. The only surprises come in forms of how Mike Manning gets out of one scrape or another or how he uses his knowledge of the White House to his benefit.
Olympus Has Fallen is a fun and entertaining action romp with great sequences and a solid script. Gerard Butler is an underrated action star. Watch it!