After leaving the cinema, having watched Olympus Has Fallen, I found myself thinking of the first Die Hard film. A lone hero, outnumbered by a foreign enemy, trying to save an estranged loved one. Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard, in the White House. Now trust me, I’m not ridiculing OHF or DH in any way when I say this. OHF was a thoroughly enjoyable production.
The film revolves around Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), an ex-secret service agent and a former member of the US Ranger Regiment. Banning, a close friend of President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), loses his position at the secret service following a traffic accident one Christmas, when he failed to save the life of the First Lady (Ashley Judd). Eighteen Months after the opening scene, he’s working at the treasury department, which keeps him within viewing distance of the White House. Lucky, really, since a visit from the South Korean Prime Minister ends with North Korean terrorists attacking and kidnapping President Asher and a number of his staff. Speaker of the house, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) takes on the role of president when the remaining government officials are informed that “Olympus Has Fallen” by a dying secret service agent.
The rest of the film is your standard lone hero storyling; Banning enters the White House during the initial skirmish between government agents and North Korean guerrilla forces and proceeds to stroll through the halls, silently killing the enemy forces one by one, in order to find the president’s son, Connor, and stop the leader of the terrorists, Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), from forcing a retreat by US forces from the Korean DMZ (which would lead to the re-ignition of the Korean civil war) and obtaining codes which would detonate America’s nuclear weapons in their silos.
The film is entertaining, there’s no doubt about that. This is one of the first films with Gerard Butler since 300 where I’ve been able to stand him on screen. While he’s no John McClane, Banning offers the audience one more action hero who knows when to throw out humorous quips during a scene (hint: when everyone else on screen is dead). Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman are good, but..you know…they’re always good. They don’t technically offer anything new with their performances, it’s all stuff we’ve seen before (no-one’s going to come out and think “Well, Morgan Freeman surprised me there). Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since they’re both very good at what they do, I just felt it was worth noting.
Rick Yune and his North Korean forces are a highlight here. Like Hans Gruber in Die Hard, with his hidden objective of stealing from the Nakatomi Building’s vault, Kang’s sinister plot to destroy an entire country takes him to a higher step on the bad guy ladder. This is the first time in a long time where I’ve been able to hate the villain and his schemes. Previous villains of big blockbusters, such as The Avengers’ Loki and The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane, are just too much fun to watch, usually stealing the show from the main character(s).
On the whole, I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen. Whilst it wasn’t completely original, it’s a fresh offering for the action genre this year. Particularly if we take into consideration the disaster that was Die Hard 5 (but we won’t talk about that now, will we?)