Firstly, this movie should not be confused with the Roland Emmerich film White House Down – although you would be forgiven for making this mistake because they are basically the same.
I was aware of Olympus Has Fallen when it came out, and did not think it was worthwhile to go see in the movie theatre. The only reason I gave it a go was because I saw it on my Netflix account and had nothing better to do. So far, this review is probably not winning you over, right?
Fortunately, I was rather pleased with what this film had to offer. Yes, it is terribly predictable and offers nothing new at all. Yet it is a decent film and entertaining. Why is it worth your time? Well, the action is fantastically done and, at times, rather brutal. On more than one occasion I ended up laughing (not haha funny) at how brutal things were every time lead man Gerard Butler shot or stabbed someone in the head. It is not shocking in a disturbing way, just blunt in its execution (pun intended here). Most of the action is quick too, especially the hand-to-hand combat or when the North Koreans make their move.
Let us talk about the villans for a second. Seriously? North Korea? This was the same case for the Red Dawn remake. I have heard some people say having China as a bad guy (which makes sense) is a no go because Hollywood wants in to their market. It makes you miss the Cold War, and the Russians are still great bad guys even if we are supposed to be less antagonistic towards them. This leaves Middle Eastern terrorists basically as your only other option. Yet China and Russia are the only real countries with a military capable of projecting their power abroad.
“Despite the Koreans overwhelming show of force, they manage to get beaten by one guy. It is boring in video games and it is boring here.”
The North Korean’s here (and most of them are not even played by Koreans) are well-trained special forces and number less than 100 yet they still manage to terrorise Washington, D.C. with a C-130 and overtake the White House in 13 minutes. Perhaps some of the Secret Service agents were still having fun in Cartagena that day? The Korean forces also manage to take out dozens and dozens of the US forces with ease. In some scenes, the Secret Service, police and US military look hardcore and take care of business. Yet in many, many other scenes they just look cartoonish.
I also found it annoying how many people were firing at the C-130 with small arms fire. This is like throwing pebbles at a lion running right at you – at best you will just piss the thing off even more, but you dead fool!
Despite the Koreans overwhelming show of force, they manage to get beaten by one guy (Gerard Butler). Sure, he is highly trained and would do much better than John McClane, but it undermines the credibility of the bad guys and what they managed to pull off. They can take over the White House but not stop one man? I know, logic in these movies does not always work. Yet this is a strong theme in Western media: one person against overwhelming odds manages to do the impossible. It is boring in video games and it is boring here. When are we going to get a different trope Joseph Campbell?
What saves this film from being trite is the strong performances from its cast. The cast here is ridiculously high-calibre for what this film is: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Ashley Judd, Dylan McDermott and Radha Mitchell. Even in supporting roles these actors manage to make the most of the material here and sell it. Gerard Butler does a passable American accent here, Aaron Eckhart is solid as the President (though he does not compare to Harrison Ford) and Morgan Freeman nails it as the Speaker of the House and Acting President during the crisis. If it was not for their commitment to this material the movie would be straight to video, they save the movie much like they save the world.
If you have nothing else better to do and want a decent yet predictable action movie with great action and solid performances, then this movie will do just fine. It offers nothing in the way of originality and the idea of North Korea ever being über villans is ridiculous. Do not expect much else from this film and you will really enjoy it. With this in mind, we award our first ever (and well-deserved) 3-star review.