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Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen

What She said:

She

Last week, I had the great honor (yes, that was sarcasm) of viewing the Roland Emmerich film, White House Down.  This week, I followed up with Olympus Has Fallen, which, when taken at face value, appears to be nearly identical to the Emmerich cheese-fest.  However, Olympus Has Fallen had the benefit of slightly beating White House Down to the punch, being released in theaters a full three months ahead of its competition.  Seriously though, these movies looked to be the same.  Thank the heavens I was wrong with my assumption.  Olympus Has Fallen contrasts White House Down’s extreme goofiness by offering a gritty action flick with an unnervingly high body count.  Is it perfect?  Heck no, but at least I didn’t have to sit through White House Down again.

Olympus Has Fallen showcases an all-star cast, including Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and Ashley Judd.  Eckhart plays President Benjamin Asher, whose life is turned upside down when he loses his wife in a car accident and is left to continue in office and care for his son by himself.  Butler is Mike Banning, a former member of President Asher’s security detail who is forced to step down after the horrific accident.  Eighteen months later, Banning is now working at the U.S. Treasury Department, a glorified desk jockey who is not pleased with his current role.  He’s forced to view the White House from his office window, which pains him even more.

Things get even worse for President Asher during a visit from the South Korean Prime Minister.  The White House is ambushed in a well-orchestrated attack committed by North Korean terrorists.  The attack is led by Kang Yeonsack, who somehow managed to get himself embedded in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.  His terrorists very quickly take over the White House and take the President and several members of his inner circle hostage.  Kang will stop at nothing to get what he wants, which turns out to be special nuclear codes that will ultimately lead to the bombing of several cities and towns across the U.S.  Nasty, nasty stuff.  Fortunately for everyone, Banning has taken it upon himself to infiltrate the White House and you seriously cannot find anyone more qualified to bring down the bad guys from the inside.

This movie has a body count, a really, really high one.  If I ever were to watch it again, I think I’d make a point of trying to keep track of it.  I’ve got to place it in the hundreds to possibly thousands.  I mean, you’ve got your mass killings via explosions and machine guns, and then you’ve got tons and tons of one-on-one snipering and knifing.  And boy is there a variety of it.  You’ve got head shots, neck shots, shots to the abdomen, appendages blown up.  There is no shortage of guts and gore in this movie.  It’s actually somewhat unsettling to watch.  I think that action junkies will soak it up like a sponge, but for someone like me, it was jarring.  I laughed at some of it and there were a lot of “Oh my God”s, but in retrospect, it was clearly a little much.  Mind you, this film is rated R, and for good reason.  I wouldn’t let anyone under the age of 18 watch this.  In today’s day and age, you certainly wouldn’t want them exposed to this level of violence.

Olympus Has Fallen

Ok, so enough on that rant.  Aside from the ridiculous amount of killing in this movie, I was actually fairly entertained.  The film moved swiftly from one action sequence to the next with little need for an explanation.  I felt the characters of Banning and President Asher were well developed, but we were left with very little to nothing on the bad guys.  I think there was some off the cuff explanation as to why Kang would want to harm so many people, but I didn’t really get it.  We definitely needed more there for this to be a truly standout action classic.  As it was lacking, we were just left with a shell of a plot line.  Fortunately with action movies this isn’t always necessary to keep things going.  Miraculously, I did not get bored with this movie.  I think the fight scenes were well choreographed enough that it kept things interesting, despite the lack of plot.

Overall, I’d say the acting was “meh.”  Eckhart was decent, although he fluctuated at times between overdoing it and underdoing it.  Freeman seemed to be phoning it in, but hey, he’ll do anything for a paycheck these days.  I thought Butler was actually pretty good.  He brought an intensity to his character that made him seem like a true assassin.  Muscles and snarly faces equates to good intensity.

I’ll say that I was entertained by Olympus Has Fallen, albeit somewhat disturbed.  I’m kind of surprised a film this violet was actually created in our post- Columbine/Sandy Hook world.  Not that this film in any way translates to school violence, but I just would not want young and impressionable people viewing it, and let’s face it, kids see rated R movies all the time.  There are elements of this movie that are unnecessary and kind of grotesque.  

Anyway, for all its flaws I kind of liked it, and certainly thought it was more solid than White House Down, so I’ll give it…

Thumbs half up.

What He said:

He

If you’ve been paying attention to what goes on around here you know that we reviewed the other White House under attack movie – White House Down – last week. Once we decided to watch it, we realized we had to watch the other. How often do two movies about virtually the same thing come up roughly around the same time? Remember Volcano and Dante’s Peak? What about Armageddon and Deep Impact? How about Leviathan and Deep Star Six? I don’t know how or why it happens, but every once and a while it seems that two studios come out with movies that are eerily similar. I’ve always thought that somebody from one studio gets fired or quits their job, steals a copy of the script, tweaks it, and heads off to a rival production company. Either way, I felt like I had to see Olympus Has Fallen having just seen the other movie.

Olympus Has Fallen

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a former Army Ranger and lead Secret Services agent for the President of the United States. He is very good at his job and enjoys it very much, however he is transferred to the Treasury Department due to his role in a tragic accident. He didn’t do anything wrong – he actually made the right call – but his presence makes uncomfortable and it’s easier for all involved if he just isn’t around anymore. It was one of those situations where he did the right thing, but doing the right thing is still pretty much a no-win situation.

Mike is a shell of his former self at the Treasury Department. There’s simply not enough going on at his new job to keep his interest. He took great pride in protecting the President and just doesn’t get any satisfaction out of his new job. He’s miserable at work, he’s miserable at home, and he’s just plain miserable period.

He doesn’t know it, but he’ll soon get his chance to rediscover his ass-kicking roots when a bunch of North Korean terrorists launch an attack on the White House. President Benhamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) has a last minute meeting with the Prime Minister of South Korea. I can’t for the life of me remember the purpose of the meeting, but I remember it was not something originally on the President’s schedule, because he had to cancel his vacation. Well it turns out the whole thing is a front for a bunch of terrorists to seize the White House. The Prime Minister was not in on it and it turns out his staff is a bunch of North Korean terrorists. If you’re upset that I just spoiled that for you, don’t be. The second you see the head of his security (Rick Yune), you know he’s a bad guy. He just has one of those faces that screams villain.
So the bad guys launch this insanely brutal and efficient attack on the White House, kill a ton of people in the process, and take the President and some other members of his administration as hostage. As a result, the Speaker of the House (played by Morgan Freeman) is temporarily sworn in as acting President. With the aid Banning – who somehow finds himself trapped in the White House  Die Hard style – the two of them orchestrate a counterattack.

I was not looking forward to watching this movie. White House Down was not a good movie, but it was entertaining in a stupid sort of way. It was so ridiculous that it actually won me over to a point. The action was too cartoony to be taken seriously, but it was fun to laugh at. This was worse according to critics, so I was dreading it. Interestingly enough, I found this movie worked a lot better as an action movie. It was over-the-top, but always remained brutal and violent like a good action movie should. It was larger than life for sure – and that’s perfectly ok for an action movie – but never as stupid as White House Down. White House Down  came off more like a spoof of an action movie, this was a legitimate action movie to me.

There were some awesome action sequences in the movie. When the terrorists first attack the White House, that had to be one of the biggest gun fights – if not the biggest gun fight – I have ever seen in a movie. Secret Service agents were getting mowed down left and right. Gerard Butler was taking out North Korean terrorists like the redshirts they were. Dude was a crack shot. He was good with a blade and his hands too. It was a delight watching him tear through bad guys using his wide array of skills. Butler has done action movie before, but I wouldn’t call him an action guy. Well if I ever had any doubts about his legitimacy as a movie tough guy, I don’t know. He was one bad MFer in this movie.

Olympus Has Fallen

Rick Yune was a worthy villain to Butler’s hero. He’s not a very popular or active actor. I don’t know why, because this guy was made to play a bad guy. I’ve now seen him in this, Fast & the Furious, and a couple of episodes of Alias. He has a cold look to him, even an colder demeanor, and is a physically fit guy. He was born to play the bad guy, I don’t know why he doesn’t work more.

There were several veteran actors in this movie. Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, and Angela Basset are just a few of them. None of them were particularly great, but for an action movie, I thought they were serviceable. In a movie like this I’m basically looking to be entertained and for something to not screw up. You don’t have to be great, but as long as you’re not so bad you’re distracting, I’m ok with that.

I thought this was a very entertaining action movie, especially when you consider we live in an area where Hollywood seems to struggle with the genre. They simply don’t know how to make them anymore. This was one of the more worthwhile action movies I’ve seen in the last several years.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on November 22, 2013.

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