Olympus Has Fallen could quite easily now be renamed as “one of those films where the White House gets attacked”, because that’s what the majority of people refer to it as.
Yes folks, this is one of two films that were released within months of each other and feature the exact same premise; terrorists attack the White House, holding it for ransom, leaving one lone hero to save the day.
In this case that hero is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). When we meet Banning he is at the top of his game, serving as a presidential guard. It is revealed that he is more than just a servant though, he is a family friend. The president (Aaron Eckhart) trusts him with every aspect of his life, including picking the First Lady’s jewellery for a party, and the president’s son has nothing but respect and adoration for him.
This fast paced flashback works very well in developing all the main characters. We very quickly understand who these people are and the importance of their relationships. This leads to an early tragedy, set against the backdrop of a snow storm near Camp David in which Banning is forced to make a terrible decision that ruins his life.
Cutting to the present day we find Banning back on his feet, but not at all where he used to be. He works at the treasury department; a stone’s throw from the White House, trawling through paperwork and living with the memories of the night that sullied his previously perfect life……That’s when the terrorists attack.
Washington and the White House are taken down in spectacular and terrifying fashion by a group of Korean rebels. This is where the film steps into 5th gear, and never really lets up. I was surprised at how hardcore the images are. Obviously the filmmakers would want to depict an incident like this as very realistic, but the amount of graphic death is genuinely quite difficult to watch.
It is at this point, when all efforts suddenly seem futile, that Banning has to use his knowledge of his former workplace to infiltrate the White House and save the President (along with the entire United States).
“Why don’t you and I play a game of fuck off. You go first”
As corny as the above might sound a lot of this film is actually brilliant. The fact that Banning is the only person able to carry out this task is very well explained and believable, and the action itself is brilliantly shot; many of the bad guys are dispatched with a greatly satisfying amount of punishment, which makes the whole “America, Fuck Yeah” mentality of the film very enjoyable.
What really brings the film down though, is the sheer amount of absolutely terrible CGI used. Numerous helicopters, automatic aircraft missiles, advanced weaponry, cars, explosions and buildings collapsing are produced via a computer program that I can only assume is shared by the SyFy channel when producing films like Sharknado!……ok it’s not that bad, but it really is laughable, and greatly takes away from what is otherwise a very visceral film.
The other main issue is the running time. At 120 minutes you do start to feel the middle act sag as events become a little repetitive (one hostage negotiation after another). Based on the premise and indeed the action beats this film could and should have been closer to a 90 minute movie.
But these things aside this is a very good film; one that you can put on at anytime and just enjoy the ride. It’s been a while since we’ve had a big budget action movie in the style of those 80s classics like Die Hard and Commando, so us dinosaurs that still get off on a good portion of vengeance and plenty of gunfights are being catered for again. Woohoo!