Home >mint-lounge >features >Film Review | Olympus Has Fallen

The list of countries that produce men and women who despise the American way of life and cook up new ways to bring down the superpower now includes North Korea. Given the dictatorship’s prominence in the “Axis of Evil" trinity proposed by former US president George W. Bush, it’s a miracle that Hollywood has taken this long to find a new enemy to punish. A movie about disgruntled Indians who want to impose vegetarianism on the land of burgers and steaks is probably in development at this very moment. Until that happens, we can sit back and marvel at the tremendous preposterousness of the latest Gerard Butler vehicle, Olympus Has Fallen, in which the Scotsman plays a secret service agent who single-handedly liberates the White House from some of the meanest terrorists to have walked the face of the earth. 

The burly actor is one of the producers of Antoine Fuqua’s ultraviolent, relentless, take-no prisoners actioner, so it is not surprising that his character, Mike Banning, is the only one who can liberate the White House, which has been overrun by a North Korean group that dreams of nuking the US as well as uniting the Koreas. Banning’s task is made easy by the fact that the terrorists, who sneak into the residence of the US president (code name Olympus) in the guise of a diplomatic delegation, keep blasting holes as they make their way through the structure. The dialogue, which aims for Die Hard-style insouciance, includes a line from Banning that he came in through the front door.

Olympus Has Fallen occasionally tries to be cool but it’s mostly a nasty, chest-thumping, bloodthirsty piece of work that might succeed in arousing allegiance towards the Stars and Stripes even among non-American viewers. The plot is anchored in an uneasy mixture of anti-globalization Occupy Wall Street sentiment and post 9/11 ultra nationalism. Banning is a disgraced former secret service agent who jumps in to help when an assault on the White House, the likes of which has never been seen before because it’s probably not possible, gets under way. The president (Aaron Eckhart) and his core team are held hostage in a bunker while the rest of the government huddles before a wall of screens and attempts to look tense. Among the worry warts picking up their pay cheques are Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Dylan McDermott. They needn’t have bothered—this is a Butler show all the way. 

Fuqua, whose credits include Training Day and Shooter, reserves his talent for the bang-for-the-buck battle sequences. Despite the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not nature of the story, Fuqua draws viewers right into the heart of the action by creating a realistic-looking White House set and choreographing several taut, tension-producing action moments. Olympus Has Fallen slackens every time it pauses to nod in the direction of sentiment, but this is the kind of movie that you watch because you want to pump your fists, not weep into a hankie. The dialogue is mostly functional, and includes such gems as, “We lost Korea, and now the nukes", and “We are now at Defcon 4." As ridiculousness levels go, Olympus Has Fallen is at Severe (Red).

Olympus Has Fallen released on Friday.

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