FlixChatter Review: Olympus Has Fallen

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I was wondering the other day if it’s possible to find a review of this movie that does not mention the words Die Hard. Seems that the comparison is inevitable and it seems that Olympus Has Fallen is begging for a comparison. In fact, perhaps it’s an homage to that action franchise, as it’s more akin to the spirit of the original Die hard movie than its official sequel (and if the latest one is any indication, much less banal)! Surely this movie will make you nostalgic about 90s bombastic action extravaganza (whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you).

If you’ve seen the trailer, or even a poster, then you’ll know the plot. The White House is being attacked by a group of North Korean terrorists and hold the president hostage. As is with a lot of 90s action flicks, there is only one person who could save the day and that man is Leonidas Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). The first ten minutes or so of exposition reveals a tragic event during his day as a Presidential guard. Again, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what happened, but in case you haven’t I’m not going to mention it here. In any case, Banning is now confined to a desk job and even as time passes he’s still consumed with regret that he let his boss and friend, that is President Asher, down. So naturally, he’s more than eager to redeem himself when the chance presented itself one sunny Summer day. The attack comes hard, fast and vicious. The first attack came from above, but instead of a space ship, practically the entire Washington DC is sprayed with bullets from an air carrier, and within 13 minutes (yes the terrorist leader was counting), the supposedly most secure building in the entire free world is reduced to rubble with dead bodies piling up on its grounds.

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The words fresh and original aren’t likely to be associated with this film, but it certainly stays completely true to its title. Olympus indeed has fallen, and Antoine Fuqua doesn’t pull any punches with the brutality of how it goes down. It’s rated R for a reason, it’s violent and bloody. I lost count how many people getting shot in the head at close range, not to mention all the severe stabbings. Both the good and bad guys deliver all kinds of ways to send people to their Maker. Banning himself has no qualms in *taking care* of the enemies. He seems to subscribe to the same “No mercy! No surrender!” motto as his most famous role in 300, but with a bit more humor thrown in. Some of the one-liners did deliver some laughs, especially his defiant quips at the Pentagon folks, though Butler’s character not quite as charismatic as Bruce Willis’ John McClane as the script lacks some serious wit.

Unfortunately it’s lacking in common sense as well. I mean, granted the believability factor depends on whether you’d believe a group of extreme terrorists could deliver such a blow to the United States. The thing is, I don’t know how such a big aircraft could enter our airspace, passing through Andrew Air force Base, without being shot down?? The security forces are so quickly rendered powerless by the enemy, it’s as if they’ve never been trained to respond to emergency attack whatsoever. But the biggest plot blunder of all to me is how Banning is still able to get security clearance once he’s inside the President’s compound as he’s technically no longer part of the Service. Yet could still use his thumb print to gain access, has the right code to open a safe, etc. as if he’s never left!! I mean, they didn’t change authorization codes every time there’s a shift in the security personnel? WOW, some *security* huh?

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Now, I can’t possibly write this review and not mention the cheesy special effects. I get that this is a throwback to 90s action blockbuster, but do they have to throw in 90s SFX as well?? It gets distracting at times, especially during the ambush scene in broad daylight. Fortunately things get better and grittier as the day progresses, and the action gets more up-close with more hand-to-hand combat between Butler and whoever is unlucky enough to get in his way. Butler is utterly believable as a bad ass special forces (is there any other kind in the movies?), he’s definitely credible in action flicks and as a one-man army. Yet he’s not wooden or vacant like many action stars, he still brings a touch of humanity to the role as the mission is a personal one for his character. There’s some emotional resonance in his scenes with Aaron Eckhart as the beleaguered POTUS, and also with his young son.

The supporting cast are stellar but not really given much to do. We’ve seen Eckhart and Morgan Freeman in far better roles, but their presence are more than welcome and add gravitas to the project. Melissa Leo got more screen time than I thought, though it’s curious what made the Oscar winner sign on to do THIS particular role. I’m disappointed that Angela Bassett — who still look beautiful and athletic — didn’t get to do any butt-kicking in this movie! I was sure she would get to do some of that when she was cast as the head of Secret Service. Rick Yune pretty much rehashed his role as Bond villain in Die Another Day as the villainous mastermind Kang who’s hellbent to get his hands on US nuclear missiles. I guess he’s serviceable but nothing more, a far cry from the iconic performance of say, Hans Gruber, as Kang is neither menacing nor entertaining. I’d say the characters of Dylan McDermott and Radha Mitchell could’ve been left in the cutting room floor and they won’t make a dent.

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Well, this movie doesn’t exactly put Butler back in my good graces just yet. He still needs to be much more selective in his role choices and most importantly, seek out decent scripts! A lot of his projects have potential but suffer from poor writing. I do think he’d be better off doing more action thrillers than rom-coms, though I do wish he balance things out with dramatic roles, too.

The spirit of patriotism is so high in this movie, there’s absolutely no room for subtlety. But seems like in the screening I was in, the audience ate it up, I could tell people were rooting for Butler as the lone hero. A torn down American flag being thrown by the bad guys from rooftops falls in slow-motion as a patriotic score comes on, there are plenty of moments like this and I can’t help but feel a bit emotional despite its inherent corny-ness. Btw, Lincoln also makes an appearance here, and you’d cheer when he [sort of] shows up on screen.

Final Thoughts: Despite all the flaws, I still think this one is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s actually quite entertaining and action fans should be pleased to see the relentless combat scenes and countless shootouts. Apart from the rather sluggish start, there’s not a boring moment as the action never stops. There’s also a decent level of suspense overall, and I definitely feel a pang in my gut seeing our leaders being violated in such a way. The subject matter of terrorism is sadly still relevant to this day, and at times it really hit close to home. Fuqua said in an interview that he sought to show America’s post-9/11 vulnerability and he certainly achieved that.


3 out of 5 reels


Those who’ve seen this one, what did you think? And for those who haven’t, are you going to check this one out?

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53 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Olympus Has Fallen

  1. This smacks of US flag waving to me which is why I’ll probably give it a miss. What with this and Red Dawn, it seems as if some people are trying to make sure everyone knows North Korea are the bad guys and the US will always prevail! Aaaanyway, glad Gerry did deliver a total bomb for you Ruth, great review :)

    • I hear ya Terry. I didn’t see Red Dawn, but yeah, both have North Korean enemies. I totally see the US patriotism theme would turn off a lot of people, esp. outside of the US. Well as I said, I’m not exactly back in love with GB again after this :D

  2. Considering its budget, they should’ve spent more money on the effects, wow they looked awful. They look like the effects from Air Force One, at least that film has an excuse, it was made in the 90s. Not this one, it’s 2013 and those effects were given okay by the filmmakers and studio folks? Unbelievable. If not for the overly serious tone, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more. Also, I can’t stand the CGI’d blood! I’ll have to write up another rant about action films in today’s market.

    • Ahah yeah, the effects is terrible but I’m a bit more forgiving on that front than you. I don’t mind the serious tone, there’s some humor sprinkled in. For sure it’s not as dumb and vapid as Die Hard 5.

      I’d love to get another action movie rant from you Ted! :D

  3. Good review Ruth. I had a good experience with this film and I’m anxious to talk about the patriotism debate. As for Gerry, I wouldn’t want to get in his way. Old school action performance through and through.

    • Hey Keith! I have a feeling we’d have some agreement in our reviews. Ahah yeah, GB is pretty scary in this one isn’t it? This is like his 300 sequel in a way, except he’s now alone and wears more clothes, ahahaha. I don’t mind patriotic films, I mean Jack Ryan movies are patriotic too. I know people think the US reaction (particularly Banning’s) is thuggish, but really under the circumstances, what do people expect us to do?? Have a cup of tea with the terrorists?? That one scene where the two bad guys Banning tied up were laughing at him, I think they’re practically asking for whatever they ended up getting.

      • You hit the nail on the head. I don’t see it as “thuggish” especially considering the 100′s of innocents and potential disaster that the threat provides. Get ‘em Gerry!

        • Exactly! I’m not even a US citizen and I felt it in my gut seeing all the carnage and destruction. Plus, like Banning said, the threat involves much more than just the US president or about the US alone.

  4. Didn’t Clint already do the “Secret Service agent with a tragic past” angle in IN THE LINE OF FIRE? Plus, Freeman must feel like he’s been demoted after having already played the POTUS in DEEP IMPACT.

    • Yep I guess he did. I forgot was Clint’s tragic past also involved POTUS/First Lady?? Ahah, well Freeman was acting president pretty much the entire film :D

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  6. since I am not thid kind of action movie fan anymore, I think I am going to pass on this.

    too bad he still hasn’t stolen your heart back ;)

    • So you didn’t like 90s action flicks Nov? I watched quite a few of them back in High School so it’s a bit nostalgic to watch this and The Last Stand. As for GB, well it’s gonna take more than a violent action flick to get me back to like him again.

  7. Seems like everybody’s saying this is “OK, not great”. Which, to be fair, is about all that I was expecting from it. I might watch it when it reaches home video… it sounds like it might be OK for an evening in, but not for spending any significant amount of money on.

  8. Nice review, Ruth! This sounds fun if formulaic…which, as a fan of the action genre, I’m certainly used to. Glad to see Butler back in a genre much more suited to his physique and talents than yet another dubious rom-com.

    • Hi Jeff, always nice to see you pop by. Yes, if you love action then this one shouldn’t disappoint you. Yeah, I think Butler’s niche is in action, more specifically R-rated action flicks. I bet he’ll get more offers to do those if this one becomes a modest hit.

    • The more I think about it, the more I actually like this one Mark. I actually don’t mind watching it again when it’s available to rent. Does it open next month in Scotland?

      • I have no idea when it opens here to be honest. I’m not normally drawn to action movies and would very rarely go to the cinema to see them. I will give this a look but probably when it hits the shops.

        • Sounds good Mark, fair enough. Well, let’s just say GB hasn’t completely lost me yet but I’d REALLY love him again if he does Burns!!

  9. I was gonna ask if you and Butler were back together again, but then you wrote it in your review. LOL :D As I was reading along, I thought you were really going to pan this one… I was like, uh oh. But 3 out of 5 is about right.

    True story, I caught a glimpse of your first sentence as I opened the notification this had posted, and I took it on as a challenge not to mention Die Hard when I did mine. Its harder than it sounds! LOL :D

    • Hi Fogs, well not quite but at least I didn’t loathe him and the film the way I did with Playing for Keeps. There are definitely flaws with this one but in the end the good over-weighs the bad, plus Butler is quite convincing as a John McClane-type character.

      Ahah, I have to check out your review to see how you manage NOT to include Die Hard in it! Even GB said it when he was promoting the movie on Jimmy Kimmel, so it’s not like the filmmakers/cast are avoiding that fact.

    • I’d think it’d be a fun movie on a Friday night Eric. Well, anything is gonna be a step up above Playing For Keeps, but yeah this one turns up to be better than I thought.

  10. Two thoughts enter my head when reading this review: At what point did somebody think Rick Yune was worthwhile giving a Hollywood career to, and second, who needs plot development, character development and common sense when sh*t is blowing up?

    Great review, Ruth. I’m looking forward to seeing this, faults and all!

    • Actually Rick Yune is not a terrible performer, I think there’s just not a lot of offers for Asian actors and he’s already been typecast in villainous roles. He..he.. well I for one would still like a bit of plot and um, intelligence to go with the bombastic action. All things considered, this one is not completely devoid of both.

  11. Good review Ruth. It’s a dumb movie, but a very fun one that actually gets you involved with it’s plot and action. That’s all thanks to a capable cast and a very exciting direction from Fuqua.

    • Yeah, I guess the lack of logic seems to be quite customary for action films, ahah. But amen on your last sentence, glad GB finally gets to work with his friend Fuqua on this one.

  12. I’m glad it wasn’t awful! I don’t think I’ll see this one but it’s good Gerard doesn’t have another Playing for Keeps in his resume and it’s at least a bit of step up.

    • It’s a major step up from PFK in that he’s not the least bit lethargic in this one. Plus he’s got some funny lines to go with all his muscular bad-assery, ahah. I’m not back to being a huge fan yet, but at least he hasn’t lost me completely.

  13. It looks as if this is just as advertised, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might be the type of blockbuster I shamelessly embrace, but I’ll probably wait to find out on DVD.

  14. Yep, common sense def lacked in this one for several points. And I wondered why they didn’t spend more on the special effects. But the cast was great and the story was fun.

    Melissa Leo’s reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while being dragged down the hallway…so moving!

    great review. We agree and have the same score

    • I guess it’s to be expected in a bombastic action flick like this to be somewhat non-nonsensical, but that whole security *breach* thing w/ Banning just seems so glaring, y’know. Thankfully, it managed to be engaging and thrilling. Yeah, Leo’s character got quite a beating didn’t she, but that scene certainly is heart-pounding!

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