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July 26, 2013

2

Olympus Has Fallen

by Franz Patrick


Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

It has been about a year and a half since Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a member of the president’s protection detail, failed to save the first lady from a freak auto accident. Since then, he has been assigned to work at the Treasury, mostly dealing with paperwork. But when North Koreans take hostage of President Asher (Aaron Eckhart), demolishing the White House and troops in the process, it seems Banning is the only one capable of stopping the ringleader (Rick Yune) and putting an end to the massacre.

Although “Olympus Has Fallen,” written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, is an inconsistent action picture, it does offer a few exciting scenes. The attacks are filmed with a sense of scope. I felt like I was watching a real terrorist attack unfolding before my eyes. However, most of these nicely executed scenes are found during the first hour which makes the second half only slightly a step above boredom.

The aerial attack on Washington, D.C. is impressive. We can hear the beating of the drums designed to amp up the tension, but the score is less pronounced than the pop of the firearms and the roar of the explosions. It is actually scary hearing high velocity bullets swishing by and seeing them hitting the pavement, establishments, and innocent people. Many action pictures do not give enough time for the audience to absorb it all. Here, there is a feral quality in the violence so the chaos is believable. In addition, I enjoy it when I notice the extras do a good job reacting. The panic they create is realistic.

At times the film is too heavy-handed with its imagery. At one point, we see a tattered American flag being taken down and disposed of by the North Koreans–in slow motion. I think seeing the White House in utter ruins already incites a certain level of sadness and anger. The filmmakers’ lack of restraint distracts with glaring puissance.

The latter half is disappointing because potentially fun action scenes take place in the dark. I understood that power is out in the White House but there should have been stronger lighting during key hand-to-hand duels. If we do not see the characters’ faces when they are throwing kicks and punches, it is easy to tune out. When the fighters end up on the ground clamping at each other, close-ups are employed. We see faces but they lack significance because there is no longer movement. For instance, Jackie Chan movies are so much fun because we see the bodies and faces during fight sequences. In here, it is almost impossible not to squint through the shadows.

Supporting characters are not written smart so talented actors are wasted. Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House, Angela Bassett as the Director of the Secret Service, and Robert Forster as the Army Chief of Staff appear to be trying really hard to overcome a limited script. If this were a top quality action-thriller, the scenes that take place in the Pentagon would have been equally exciting as the events taking place outside its walls. To be in their position, a strong personality and sharpness is required. The screenplay goes for the obvious: creating a would-be serious argument, which comes off silly, between two men–one is humbled by having the power and the other craving it.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, “Olympus Has Fallen” is not at all ambitious. Its one goal is to entertain by blowing things up and showing people in danger. I liked it in the beginning; I was ready to go on a thrilling ride. But it fails to go anywhere. It feels like it had given up just moments before it was about to hit its stride.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 26 2013

    Good review Franz. Granted, this movie is way too self-serious and dumb, but I had a lot of fun with it. Probably more fun than I did with White House Down, although that may seem strange to some.

    Reply
    • Jul 26 2013

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who had some fun with it! Even though, as you pointed out, it took itself too seriously and is, yeah, kinda dumb, I was down to be entertained. During the first half, I was–and then it got repetitive and dark (as in it was hard to see) later on.

      I’m interested in seeing “White House Down,” too. That one doesn’t look as serious. It seems like a lot of people are saying that that one is better. I guess we’ll see!

      Reply

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