Olympus Has Fallen (2013)


I really enjoyed this film. My only real problem with it is that it isn’t Die Hard 4. When I saw this film in theatres, I spent most of the second half tweaking the plot so that it could be John McLane saving the president, rather than Gerard Butler. It has become a big bugbear of mine now that this quality action film is not a member of the Die Hard franchise, as it would seemingly fit perfectly.

Butler is Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. During a storm, the president’s (Harvey Dent) car nearly runs off a bridge. Banning is able to save the president, but his wife is lost when the car plunges off a cliff.

Eighteen months later, Banning has left the Secret Service to be a security guard in DC. The president is now raising his young son on his own, and expecting a visit from the South Korean president. During their visit, the White House is stormed by North Korean terrorists, led by some spies with the South Korean security. They eventually hold the president and much of his cabinet hostage, hoping to discover some secret pass codes from Harvey Dent so they can do something dastardly with the U.S.’s weapons. They hope to use the president’s son, Connor (Finley Jacobson), as bait. With the rest of the Secret Service out of action, it’s up to Banning to sneak into the White House, find Connor, and rescue his old boss.

This film is a lot of fun. It’s hard not to compare it to the similarly themed White House Down, which came out a few months later. Olympus Has Fallen is the superior film. It has a more believable¬†story (if that’s possible), and a more charismatic lead (sorry, Channing Tatum).

The only way this film could’ve been better is if it starred Bruce Willis. I actually had a completely plausible scenario to get McLane into the White House to save the day. That’s the biggest shame about this film. Because it exists, my John McLane version can never be. Despite this, Olympus Has Fallen is an enjoyable romp, led by Gerard Butler in all his alpha male glory, and ably supported by a solid cast including the golden voiced Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett.

Rating: B+

Let’s just call Olympus Has Fallen what it is: a fun Die Hard wannabe. In fact, Ben and I agree, that with a few tweaks, this should have been the fourth Die Hard movie. Like John McClane is visiting his son and Reginald VelJohnson’s son, both Secret Service men, in D.C. The North Koreans take the White House, but McClane and VelJohnson’s son are inside at the time. The two must work together to save the president and whatnot. You’d watch that movie, right? I know I would.

Which is not to say that Olympus Has Fallen is a bad movie as it is. It’s a very re-watchable action flick thanks to strong pacing and a good cast.

The movie starts with some background, before delving into almost non-stop action. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a Secret Service agent and close friend of the president (Aaron Eckhart). After Banning is forced to save the president’s life instead of the first lady’s their relationship cools. Banning goes to work for another government agency, but is close by when North Korea attacks the White House and takes the president and other high ranking officials hostage. Banning becomes the government’s inside man as they try to save the president and the country.

Olympus is well paced. It doesn’t get bogged down in back story or too much set up before getting to the action. The parts that I thought would be longer– mainly Banning interacting with his wife, and getting the president’s young son to safety– were given enough time to resonate and add suspense, but no so much that they detract from the rest of the movie. This was particularly welcome during Banning’s interaction with the son. The child actor was good, but I had no desire to spend half of the movie watching Butler shield a kid from danger (or worse, see a 10-year-old start thwarting terrorists).

The cast here is solid, lead well by Gerard Butler. He’s charismatic and funny, delivering some great one-liners that add levity in the right places. Eckhart is not the best fictional president ever to grace the big screen, but his Commander-In-Chief is probably more realistic than others. (I love Harrison Ford in Air Force One, but I’ll admit the idea of a POTUS that butt-kickingly awesome is probably a fantasy.) The best role goes to Morgan Freeman, the Speaker of the House who is suddenly made Acting President during the crisis. Freeman brings a gravitas to the screen that most actors just don’t have. I know I should be rooting for Eckhart to live, but I kinda wanted Freeman to be president.

My only criticism about this movie is one cloying ultra-patriotic bit involving the Secretary of Defense. After being beaten by a North Korean terrorist, she is dragged away while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I roll my eyes every time I watch this scene. It’s so obviously pandering, when the movie doesn’t need any of that. In fact, this is the only over-the-top “Go America!” scene, and I don’t know why the filmmakers felt it was needed.

Olympus Has Fallen is a well written action flick. It’s smart and action packed, something that’s too rare in the genre. This is probably why I compare it so favorably to Die Hard, and why, despite liking Olympus, wish this had been John McClane’s next adventure.

Rating: B+

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