We’re only in March of 2013, but this year has already seen many less than average action films. A Good Day to Die Hard, Bullet to the Head and Dean Man Down were all letdowns, so I was completely thankful when I walked out of the theatre of Antoine Fuqua’s newest film, Olympus Has Fallen and said to myself, “That was awesome.”
It’s the day after Independence Day in Washington, DC and former Presidential guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is getting breakfast with the Director of Secret Service Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett). Banning is haunted by a tragic event that happened a few years ago while he was guarding the President (Aaron Eckhart) and the First Lady (Ashley Judd), an event that cost the First Lady her life.
After the incident, Banning left Secret Service for a desk job at the U.S. Treasury Department. It’s quite clear Banning misses life inside the White House, but his presence only reminds the President of his wife’s death. Meanwhile the President and Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) are preparing to meet with the Prime Minister of North Korea. All of a sudden, a rogue plane swarms overtop of downtown DC, firing shots into the street and into the Monument. Banning gets a clear view of what’s happening from his office window and decides to take action by running outside telling people to get inside. Well, it makes sense to me!
The President’s security team takes him to the underground hideaway, over a hundred feet below the White House for protection. That would have worked just fine, but then all of a sudden, the North Korea posse (who was also taken down with the President) goes crazy and starts shooting everyone, throwing some martial arts punches and the Prime Minister’s head of security Kang (Rick Yune) announces they were the ones behind the attack! Dun dun dunnnnnn!
With what looks like the majority of the population from North Korea swarming the grounds of the White House, shooting people on the streets of DC and blowing things up all over the place, it’s pretty much any DC based person’s worst nightmare. The terrorists take the White House (security code Olympus) shooting every security guy down, but somehow Banning makes his way into the house using the front door.
With the President, Vice President (Phil Austin) and Secretary of Defense being held hostage below the White House, Speaker of the House Alan Trumball (Morgan Freeman) takes over the responsibility as the leader of the United States. Banning uses his insider knowledge of the White House in hopes to save the President and keep the terrorists from starting a bigger crisis.
There is a lot of explosions, foul language and disturbing images in Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen, but the director isn’t shy to violence (think Training Day and Shooter). Also, being a Washington DC resident, the film hits close to home and really makes you wonder, “Could this really happen to us?” With that being said, the action scenes are excellent and keep you on the edge of your seat. I found myself completely thrown in to the story, wondering what the end fate would be for these characters.
Olympus Has Fallen gives Gerard Butler the ultimate comeback he’s been waiting for. Butler leads the film wonderfully from beginning to end, having a character arc that would make Bruce Willis’ John McClane jealous. Butler pours his heart and energy into lead character Mike Banning. He gives Banning a fun, but tough personality with a lot of heart and passion for his country. It was fun to see what his character was going to do or say next. “Let’s play a game of f*** off.”
Aaron Eckhart is the perfect actor to cast as the President of the United States. I mean that’s basically where Harvey Dent was heading before he bit the dust in The Dark Knight. His presence as President is never lost throughout the film, I just only wish that after the terrorist attack, his character was given a bit more to do. There’s lots of scenes were Eckhart is tied up, looking over his shoulder screaming, “You’ll never get my code!” The screenplay could’ve allowed him to play around more.
What makes Olympus a great action film is that it has the right balance of serious subject matter and the right balance of comedic relief. Butler has some fun one-liners, but they were said at appropriate times throughout the film. And with a film as crazy and at time, scary as this one, we need those lines of comedic relief.
A terrorist attack in our nation’s capital is no laughing matter, but the cast and director were able to create a balanced and edge-of-your-seat thriller with this film. Olympus Had Fallen is certain to be a hit in theatres and makes you feel damn proud to be an American.
I sat down with Gerard Butler, Antoine Fuqua, Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett to discuss Olympus Has Fallen. Listen to the interview here.