MRR Movie Review: "Olympus Has Fallen"

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A disgraced U.S. Secret Service agent is the only man who can save the President and the country when the White House is seized by terrorists. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, this action thriller stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett & Dylan McDermott.
3.5

Movie Review: "Olympus Has Fallen" 

 

Rating: R (strong violence and language)

Length: 120 minutes

Release Date: March 22, 2013

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Genre: Action / Thriller

 

Several contemporary movies have chosen to use North Koreans as their main villains, such as the remake of "Red Dawn." It is quite interesting and a bit fortuitous that "Olympus Has Fallen" opened during a week in which North Korea has put its military on a war footing and has threatened the United States mainland with attack. The main antagonist in the film is a diabolical and charismatic Korean terrorist named Kang (Rick Yune).The timing for the kind of over-the-top plot and action is sure to gain a few additional ticket buyers who may have not considered this flick before.

 

Gerard Butler ("Gladiator" and "300") is a disgraced US Secret Service agent named Mike Banning, a man once detailed to protect the President, now relegated to a Treasury Department desk job. The prologue of the film shows harrowing events unfold which lead to a terrible accident that strains Banning's trusted relationship with the President he was sworn to protect, and the President's son. Banning is obviously not happy to work in view of the White House, as his talent and skills are wasted on things such as counterfeiting cases. Luckily, or not, these skills will be put to the test again, as a visit from the Prime Minister of South Korea goes horribly wrong. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), his Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) are taken hostage by terrorists and held in the bunker beneath the White House.

 

Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt penned the script, and director Antoine Fuqua put it all into action. There's a ton of action, some of it very haunting in its visual implications. With a setting like an alternate universe, where things are similar to our known reality, but slightly different, a viewer really has to suspend his or her sense of disbelief. The plot asserts that dozens of North Korean operatives are hiding among South Korea's government, and that the country possesses planes with shields able to deflect American missiles. An all-out attack takes place on the streets of Washington, with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and its surrounding monuments being ground zero. In an all too familiar scene reminiscent of 9/11's twin towers footage, the Washington Monument crumbles to the ground. It also gives flashbacks to the destruction of the White House in "Independence Day."

 

For those who witnessed the real footage only eleven years ago, it could be kind of traumatizing to see people jumping out of windows and set on fire, as leaders stand powerless to do anything at all. This gigantic attack scene consumes a twenty-minute portion of the movie's two-hour run time, but it has its purpose. Director Fuqua skillfully uses these images to build up the audience for what is to come: The President must be saved and those who did this must pay.

 

Even with all of the widespread carnage and destruction, all is not lost. Banning escapes capture, and uses his intimate knowledge of the White House's construction to traverse secret passages in an effort to stop Kang before he uses Asher to launch nukes that would totally devastate the US mainland and North Korea's other global enemies. Butler is efficient and focused in his role, and his character is devoid of humor except for a few quips. He manages to establish satellite phone communication with the Pentagon. The Secretary of State, Alan Trumbull, (wonderfully portrayed by Morgan Freeman) is the acting President, and he is assisted by other cabinet members, including the Secret Service director and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

The prior action was epic in scale, with some questionable CGI. However, in the halls of the White House Banning dispatches black-clad opponents on a more personal and primal level, with neck snaps and throat crushing being just as useful as a few well-placed bullets. The low budget approach often eclipses some of the sketchy CGI in the major attack scene. The final moments are best left to the imagination until the movie is seen.

 

In a time when the leaders of the nation are at their lowest point of approval, this film will  remind audiences what it means to be Americans. In times of peril, the country is still the leader of the free world and has enemies.  Sure "Olympus Has Fallen" is patriotic, but that's what makes it worth seeing in the end. These are our people, and it's nice to see that there are still heroes.

 

Rating 3.5 out of 5