'Olympus' is a merely mortal action movie
05:00 AM, Mar 21, 2013
Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard in the White House.
This is for those who like their political thrillers far-fetched, far-reaching and filled with pretty people.
Like Die Hard, Olympus (* * out of four; rated R; opening Friday nationwide) features cover-model terrorists, as gorgeous as they are ruthless. But it doesn’t have the tension or the funny one-liners of the original Die Hard. The special effects are schlocky, the action lumbering.
Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a devoted Secret Service agent, one of the elite presidential guards. He boxes with President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) respectfully showing the commander in chief some new moves. When the first lady asks for his fashion counsel, he recommends the classiest earrings. He becomes pals with their plucky little son (Finley Jacobsen).
Banning saves the president’s life during a car accident in a blizzard, but fails to save the first lady (Ashley Judd). Relegated to a dull desk job, he bristles with determination to prove his mettle.
He gets his chance when the White House is attacked. Dodging falling civilians, Banning makes his way over to the smoking hulk at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to single-handedly stop extremists bent on American annihilation.
Butler is better playing the action hero than playing his recent rom-com hunks, but the entire premise is forced, formulaic and far too familiar.
A North Korean fighter jet somehow appears in air space over Washington without being detected and rains destruction on our nation’s capital. Really? All it takes to overtake the capital and wreak holy hell is one plane?
This happens just as a South Korean delegation arrives at the White House, without as much as being asked for I.D. by guards at the gate.
The good news is that when the errant plane is discovered, the president, vice president and several key administration officials are rushed into a bunker. The bad news is that the president invites the delegation to join him in the secure hideaway. But the visiting group also includes North Korean terrorists posing as South Korean security personnel. So the bad guys are not only inside the building, they’re locked in with the nation’s leaders.
Those leaders are tortured until they surrender parts of the country’s closely guarded nuclear codes. But given that one techie woman seems to be constantly manning a computer, why doesn’t she just crack the code? Everything else is equally implausible, including the Beltway Armageddon.
While some of the city is re-created believably, it’s too bad nobody gave the same level of care to plot and dialogue. There even is a sloppy news segment with a typo in the headline: “Terrorist Attack the White House.” Then there are the too-obvious symbols: a tattered flag flapping in the breeze. A bust of Abraham Lincoln shattering as it slays a terrorist.
Eckhart is thoroughly unconvincing as the leader of the free world. Some officials, like Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House, come off more believably. But the strikingly handsome terrorist known only as Kang is blandly played by Rick Yune.
Director Antoine Fuqua, whose Training Day was a gritty triumph, paints everything here with too broad a brush. Patriotism, the North Korean threat, anonymous shootouts, nuclear war all are depicted in the most simplistic ways imaginable.
As Olympus falls, all subtlety and suspense is lost.
Olympus Has Fallen Clip: Banning Is Special Forces