Movie poster for Olympus Has Fallen.
This review does contain spoilers.
This action film has a great cast, a good story and some great action sequences. The film rotates around the White House being overtaken, successfully, by terrorists and its rescue from a washed up ex secret service member.
Gerard Butler stars as the main protagonist, fighting the evil terrorists in well choreographed action sequences. Butler was good, although it’s a bit strange hearing him with an american accent – I always expect to hear him in his native Scottish. This, I think, would have made Butler’s part more believable: nothing stops a scottish man in the middle of a fight!
Aaron Eckhart plays the president who has tragedy in his life but still a country to lead. Eckhart made a good president although the character was surprisingly weak when under pressure – as soon as a baddie threatens a goodie, he immediately rolls over and says ‘tell them anything they want’. Had it not been for this weakness, the possibility of nuclear winter would not have been a threat. This was a weakness in the storyline but I guess we could put it down to the pressures of leadership in a hostage situation. It’s easy to say I wouldn’t tell them anything and laugh in their faces, but I guess as soon as they tickle my feet with a feather I’d give them the combination to the nuclear arsenal.
Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House who during the film, because of the apprehension of the president and vice president, becomes acting president. We need to remember that last time he was president a huge asteroid fell to earth and a huge tidal wave occurred, so I wasn’t holding out much hope. However, he managed to maintain his authority, although the White House still ended up in a state. It is also strange having him in the centre of the movie posters, as out of the three main characters, he had the least air time. Disappointingly, or perhaps thankfully, there were no Morgan Freeman monologue voice overs in this film. Had there been I may not have been able to contain the level of cheese.
The American Cheese throughout this film was potent. From the opening snare drum roll shortly followed by trumpets, to the falling of the American flag from the top of the White House, to the partial collapse of the Washington Memorial, this film was full of it. Even the statue of George Washington being used to knock out a baddie was present: ‘smashing the head of communism with freedom’, or something like that. I do, however, understand that Americans love this sort of thing, and would understand the importance of such actions happening.
This film should should have been rated an 18 here in the UK, rather than the given 15. Lots of F bombs, head shots and even some short torture scenes; overall, lots of blood that made for almost uncomfortable viewing. There were even a couple of suicide bombers viewed as they detonated themselves. I’m not really sure who made the decision to rate it a 15, but I’ve seen 18s with far less violence, swearing and blood. It’s interesting to know that in South Korea, Olympus Has Fallen was rated an 18 (source IMDB), although this was probably due to political reasons as well as the violence. The rating may also explain my discomfort while watching it; had I been expecting an 18 I may have been more prepared for the violence. Another Butler movie, Law Abiding Citizen, arguably had less violence yet was rated 18. It could be however that the BBFC see this as a mind numbing action film, not requiring as strict guidelines compared to psychological thrillers.
I understand why the creators used the North Korean situation as part of the storyline, but I wasn’t a fan of it. I would have preferred it if a fake country had been used like “Madeupistan”. Part of my problem was that I was reading into every little piece of politics in this movie, although some viewers would not not have picked up on it. However, you don’t need to know Asian politics nor the history of the Korean war to watch this film as the action speaks for itself. All you need to remember is that if they’re Asian, they’re the bad guys. Which has made me realise that I didn’t see in the film any Asian good characters, at least that I can recall. All of the main characters seem to be caucasian. I imagine that this is to avoid confusion for the viewer: in fast paced action movies there isn’t time to look at the clothing to determine if someone is good or bad.
I was concerned how much the emergency committee believed every word of Butler’s character. Anything he said they trusted and did. I’m not sure if this is because they genuinely trusted him as a person or were just swepped away with his charming good looks and smooth voice. It’s a good job that one of the baddies didn’t get hold of the phone first – it could have been a disaster! If they’d have believed every word that the baddie said, the end of the film would be very different. The believing every word of Butler was most evident in the double cross character, who was a goodie, turned a baddie and then at merely speaking with Butler becomes a goodie again. A bit weird, but I understand that it was showing that every baddie can become a goodie; realising the errors of their ways.
There was the threat of nuclear weapons being exploded and millions of people being immediately incinerated and America being reduced to a wasteland: oh how I’ve missed this. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film with a good old “oh no the baddies have got a nuke and they’re not afraid to use it” movie. I’m struggling to think of the last film I saw with this in it. I say miss it, not because I want to see a nuclear explosion, but because this type of storyline has been missed from action movies of late. You can have a baddie wanting to end someone’s life and they’re known as a bad person, but throw in a nuclear weapon in the mix and immediately you realise that the boss is a nutter; it’s the quickest way for people to realise this. Of course, the film doesn’t end with this, but it was a close call. However, and oddly, the idea of all the nukes ever going off simultaneously didn’t fill me with suspense. This may have worked better with just one or two missiles.
Final rating: 4/5. The rating should have been an 18 and the cheese could have been turned down. Some of the fx looked fake and cheap. It was however, overall, a good action movie – once again good triumphs over evil, although for the first 45 minutes it didn’t look like it.