It’s been a while since we’ve had a “straight up” action movie. I don’t mean a superhero joint with good special effects. I’m talking about a movie where a disastrous situation occurs and there’s only “one man for the job.” In his latest effort, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest) harkens back to the 80s, a decade proliferated with Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Willis movies featuring a one man wrecking crew.
Fuqua pulls together several notable names in Olympus Has Fallen, an action-packed movie about a secret service agent who tries to save the White House (code name Olympus) after it is besieged by North Korean terrorists. Gerard Butler (Playing For Keeps) stars as Mike Banning, an accomplished Secret Service agent who was recently reassigned from a prestigious position on the President’s detail to a much less exciting position at the Treasury Department. The President is ably portrayed by Aaron Eckhart (The Rum Diary), even though there is no way he looks like a president. In real life, a President has never appeared so young, fit, and handsome – no offense to JFK or President Obama. Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises) and Angela Bassett (This Means War) round out the cast as the Speaker of the House and Secret Service Director, respectively.
The movie begins with a flashback to the incident that led to Banning’s reassignment. I’ve always thought it was extremely important to begin and finish a movie on a strong note. I think audiences are more tolerant of a lull in the middle of a movie if they feel invested up to that point. Don’t let Butler’s recent romantic comedy leanings fool you. Remember that he was King Leonidas in 300, and playing the tough guy hero is totally in his wheelhouse. The actual White House takeover scene was breathtaking to watch, for a number of reasons. Even if you’re not the patriotic type, there is something unnerving about seeing the White House obliterated. I’m not xenophobic, but when I saw those North Koreans make Swiss cheese out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, my blood began to boil. Go America!
The concept of the White House being taken over is a little far-fetched, but if it could ever conceivably happen I think Fuqua did a good job of showing us how it would transpire. That being said, I don’t think the CIA is too concerned with anyone getting ideas after seeing this movie. I’m not sure if the weapons technology depicted really exits, but the special effects were amazing. Excessive killing in movies can be gratuitous, but here it was essential to the plot. Freeman and Bassett didn’t break any new ground with their roles, but they served their purpose. As long as Butler was convincing as Banning, the movie worked. Just as John McLane’s sole objective was to reclaim the Nakatomi Building, Mike Banning will stop at nothing to reclaim The White House. If you like action, this throwback movie won’t disappoint. Grade: B+