Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
In all fairness, "Olympus Has Fallen" sure as hell does not feel like a B-grade action film. It is ambitious, with tons of explosions, blood, torture and deaths, but unfortunately, it may just be dwarfed by its ambitions. Antoine Fuqua's film reads like a political statement that points at North Koreans being bad, the President should have been white, and women are too weak to be in politics. Put all that together into a film that spans two hours and "Olympus Has Fallen" is easily the cure for insomnia.
Former Special Forces operative Mike Banning is a Secret Service agent assigned to Presidential Detail, but after a tragic accident involving the First Lady (Ashley Judd), he is demoted and assigned to desk duty. When the White House is captured by terrorist mastermind Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) and the President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is held hostage, Banning heads into the building to help, but finds himself trapped within. As the national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President, and avert an even bigger disaster.
It has been a while since Gerard Butler has played an action hero, which was "Gamer" in 2009 and that was a film best forgotten. He may have wielded a machine gun in "Machine Gun Preacher" two years ago, but Sam Childers was more like a reluctant hero as opposed to the 'take no prisoners' Mike Banning. However, Butler does not bring much to the film other than his usual gruff demeanour and growls.
Like Butler's casting, all the other characters seem to be casted according to roles that they are best known for. For example, Morgan "God" Freeman is playing the role of Speaker Allan Trumbull, who becomes the Acting President when President Asher is taken hostage. There was a scene where Freeman has to convince the public that everything is under control, and if I had to trust someone, who better than Morgan Freeman? The scene where Freeman asserts his authority over General Clegg is evidence of why Freeman is such a fan favourite.
Aaron Eckhart as President Asher is like a jab in public's ribs about voting for Obama. He is basically flawless, save for the fact that he is tied up most of the time, but when he isn't, we see him practicing boxing with Mike Banning, giving presents to his wife and worrying about his son. Even when threatened, the President is brave and defiant ("The United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists"), yet caring towards his subordinates ("I'm giving you an order to give him the code") when they are threatened. But in spite of all his virtues, he is just a caricature, an object for Mike Banning to retrieve. From the start of the film to the end he is still the same man despite his horrifying ordeal, and even throughout, he does not display any emotion other than outrage and contempt.
The story itself is laughable. Was the level of destruction and huge numbers of armed forces really necessary? Considering Fuqua's resume, you would think that he would know better than to follow in the footsteps of "Rambo" or "The Expendables" but no. By the end of "Olympus Has Fallen", there should not even be any more members of the armed forces or President's security detail. Any person who carries a weapon when the terrorists storm the White House, or so much as breathes as a hostage is shot or maimed without mercy. Okay, that seems believable since these are terrorists we are talking about. But then we are supposed to believe that Banning is capable of taking down over 20 of these killers all by himself? Worse, after losing quite a few of his men, Kang Yeonsak continues to send them after Banning alone or as a pair at most.
To top that all off, the special effects for "Olympus Has Fallen" does not live up to its larger-than-life story. The fighter plane firing definitely looks cheap, for one. On the other hand, kudos must be given to the editing team for managing to make Butler's hand-to-hand combat scenes look authentic, because considering the amount of cutting and angle changes done, let's just say that Butler's skills in close-quarters combat should be questionable.
Being in the action genre is the biggest strength and biggest weakness of "Olympus Has Fallen". Fuqua's film is exciting, fast-paced and above all, dares to take risks, but it falls flat in execution because it refuses to stick to one genre. "Olympus Has Fallen" first starts off as a conventional rescue-the-President film, but it decides that it has to be deep as well, so a mystery about Kang Yeonsak's motives and ethical dilemmas are introduced, such as whether to sacrifice the President for a greater good. By then, no one cares so much as wanting to see the terrorists brutally massacred by Butler, only to have the plot meander towards another bigger disaster. Perhaps it would not have been so bad if the characters are not so cookie-cutters.Cinema Online, 14 March 2013