Unlike the last few new movies I’ve watched, “Olympus Has Fallen” not only kept me on the edge of my seat, but sometimes practically out of it. Viewed on Labor Day with family (after the requisite barbecue), sister Katie quipped they not only enjoyed the movie, but the armchair warrior’s reactions. That was me, by the way. As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post, I’m highly excitable when it comes to movies. My taste runs the whole gamut from animation, to BBC, to classic, to action/thrillers like Olympus.
The driving intensity of this movie was several notches above any action/thriller I’ve seen in a while, and Gerard Butler is awesome. He came across my radar in “Reign of Fire” (2002), along with Christian Bale. Butler then seared across the big screen in “Phantom of the Opera” in 2004 (he can sing, too). Now whenever his name is mentioned in context with any movie, my head pops up like a prairie dog out of an open plain. For one thing he looks and acts like a MAN. How rare is that. But not like a caricature of a man on the order of Steven Seagal.
What works in Olympus is a bad guy, Kang (Rick Yune) — and his minions– who is definitely worth his salt. I mean, I was already growling and grinding my teeth as I watched Our Flag being shredded by bullets, and Our Colors floating wounded to the ground from the top of the White House. By the time Kang comes on the scene as the mastermind behind the air and ground assaults, I’m ready to take him out. I thought, give my sister and me two minutes alone with this guy and he’ll be begging for Guantanamo. Rick Yune got a lot of practice being Kang as a real life Hedgefund Trader on Wall Street. No wonder I hated his guts.
The cold, deliberate way these North Korean terrorists went about their diabolical plot drove me nuts, even though the very word “terrorist” means someone who is about as warm as a psychopath on an ice shelf. The directing of this film must have had a lot to do with it. When I learned that Antoine Fuqua, the director, had also directed “Shooter” (2007) starring Mark Wahlberg, I had an “Aha!” moment. And Fuqua started out in basketball, not film. Maybe he learned intensity on the court.
That said, now I get to some plot problems, though they were not enough to tarnish my violence quotient for the month. A good action/thriller is my outlet, my steam-kettle release after too much in-your-face horror on local and national news. After five minutes of that crap I’m sittin’ on ready for somebody to kick some bad guy’s teeth in and set the world to rights. And Gerard Butler was just the one to do it.
Okay. Problems. From the beginning, the taking of the White House is too easy. Though the terrorists are seen to be highly organized, and ruthlessly efficient, the guardians of our nation’s capitol are such bad shots they couldn’t hit a terrorist if they were lined up like ducks in a gallery. What’s with that? And the agents stand out on the White House steps like they’ve got “shoot me” written across their foreheads. There are big columns they can shoot from behind.
The only man who can actually hit a moving target is the disgraced, no longer on the White House Detail, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). But he isn’t far away. He can see the White House from his office window at the Treasury Department. It only takes moments for him to join the defenders, and he’s the only agent who manages to get into the White House alive. He becomes the eyes, ears, and secret weapon of the acting U.S. government, headed by Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman).
But the most memorable line of the entire movie comes from Secret Service Agent Roma (Cole Hauser) as, wounded and down, now weaponless and being dogged by an armed terrorist, he manages to speak into his headphone the words “Olympus has fallen, repeat, Olympus has fallen”. Even though it’s a movie and you know it’s not real, those words hit your heart with instant sorrow, dread, and dismay.
Like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard sequences, Butler is a one-man demolition team. Like Willis, he makes it look REAL good, but I would have liked to see our guys not look like such total incompetents. Yes. They are definitely heroic, and I know the object is to make us viewers really mad to see them gunned down right on the icon of democracy. But, good grief, it would have been nice to see at least a stab at holding ground instead of looking like cattle in an abattoir.
Then we come to President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), who does everything wrong. First of all, the attack comes while the President is sitting down to talks with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Tae-Woo (Keong Sim), and a contingent of South Korean government leaders and staff.
When news of the incursion of U.S. air space comes and the President is being whisked away, Asher insists his guests come to the safe room also. An agent reminds him this is against protocol. Asher ignores the reminder and insists. Of course, all of the North Korean delegation, except the Prime Minister himself, are members of Kang’s top secret terrorist organization. And that’s not giving away the plot. You can see it coming a mile away.
Then the President, who is naturally loathe to see any of his fellow hostages — which includes Vice-President Charlie Rodriguez (Phil Austin) and Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) — tortured or killed, orders them to give their code numbers to Cerberus, the missile self-destruct system, thinking he is keeping them safe, since he won’t give his own final sequence under any circumstances. And this while the numbers are scrolling rapidly down to breaking the last code.
As for McMillan, I loved her feisty, won’t-give-in attitude when she was being manhandled and beaten by Kang. But though her hands and feet were lashing out, she didn’t once connect. At this point I was yelling out ringside smacking moves to the complete entertainment of my Labor Day guests. And I reminded the woman that Hillary would have connected with some part of that bad dude’s anatomy. But she’s probably had practice.
There were several problems when it came to making stupid decisions by the U.S. government. (You might ask, what’s new, but we won’t go there at this point). The biggest being that Speaker Trumbull caved on the terrorist demands to pull out U. S. land, air, and naval forces from South Korea in order to save one man — the President. That ain’t gonna happen. No one puts the balance of the world in jeopardy for the life of one man, even if he is the President of the United States. I don’t even know that an acting president could make such a major decision on his own.
Yes. This film is extremely violent. Yes. I despised the four-letter language bombs. Yes. I winced at the ridiculous decisions. But, in spite of the stupidities produced to drive the action and intensity, this film is a roller coaster of an emotional ride. Yes. In the end, it’s a film that I hate to love. But, man, was it a great show. I was worn out by the end of it. I’m getting too old to go into battle with Gerard Butler.