(Dir: Antoine Fuqua, 2013)
The most interesting thing about Olympus Has Fallen is how easy it
makes it look for terrorists to take over the White House. As the chief
villain Kang (Rick Yune) says, it took them only thirteen minutes to do so.
Anyone remember that later season of 24 where a similar thing happened?
In the case of Olympus Has Fallen it's a bunch of renegade North Koreans (or Democratic People's Republic of Korea
as they insist on unironically being called), who we're to believe have
the skill, ability and capacity to break into and overthrow one of the
most protected places on Earth. Ok, let's set aside reality for a
minute, I can suspend my disbelief, this is Hollywood. And if the
President looked like Aaron Eckhart we'd all want to vote for him right?
Stepping into the John McClane role in what is essentially a direct
retread of Die Hard is Gerard Butler. He's ex Secret Service, he once
saved the President's life (see the first ten minutes of the film, just
so we know) and he gets himself into the right place at the right time
so he can fuck up Kang's shit (I can't remember if that's a direct
quote or if I'm paraphrasing). Butler proves two things whilst
threatening to jam a knife into a brain (another direct quote) - he can
convincingly handle action scenes (he's quite fun to watch in that mode)
and he's really really not a good actor. He helped make 300 thoroughly enjoyable, but can you name another film where his presence actually added to it? I'm
The script goes a long long way towards enhancing the woodeness of
not only Butler's acting but the whole ensemble. This is the first film by the writers - here's hoping we don't get more. Eckhart probably took
this role because he got to play president but he's relegated to the
background and gets time to work on how to look pissed off whilst cable
tied. He's proven in the past that he's a far better actor than this.
Morgan Freeman fulfils what appears to be his sole purpose in films
these days, to pop up for a bit and add a touch of gravitas. This is
another easy paycheck for him, just like last week's Oblivion (read review). And what of Robert Forster's boorish general or Melissa Leo's Secretary of Defense? Nothing to see here other than cliché. Yune fulfils the villain
role satisfactorily, with snarling menace and the requisite gleeful
Most curious is how timely this American demonising of the North
Koreans is both here and in the recent Red Dawn remake. This amounts to
propaganda for brainwashing the masses; forget about the Middle East and
the pesky Russians, no, this is the new enemy and they seem like commies, have
nukes and hate the good ol' US of A. Recent real life tension between these countries is
just damn fortunate timing. The US response apparently needs always be decisive and
violent and in Olympus Has Fallen it's jarringly so, in a way that feels excessive
probably to all but those with the deepest patriotism running through
their veins. (Best not point out it's a Scot with a dodgy American
accent who saves the day!).
If it wasn't already clear from my sardonic tone, Olympus Has Fallen
is bad. The story is pure filtered cliché with a risible script and
acting so wooden it gives off splinters. Gunfire and explosions alone do
not a good film make. It's about the taking of a temple of pure
Americanism so the jingoism is expected, but it's so heavy handed it never
sits easy. As the film plays it totally straight it's impossible to
watch and not constantly hear in your head "America, fuck yeah!!".
If you like your films bad
and littered with simple patriotic propaganda, Olympus Has Fallen may just be for you. I'm intrigued how White House Down will handle a similar story
later this year with a domestic enemy - it can surely only be better.