Olympus Has Fallen - DVD Review

'quickly falls into a well-trodden and episodic plot driven by characters making stupid decisions. President Asher does at least two things that make him seem more idiotic than George W. Bush.'

It would be wonderful to be able to report that both of this year’s “Die Hard In The White House” films offer vastly different takes on this moderately high concept, or even that one offers a considerably superior cinematic experience making the choice of which to see (if any) relatively academic. But, having now seen Olympus Has Fallen as well as White House Down, there’s not a great deal between them.

Tonally, Olympus Has Fallen feels darker, which perhaps shouldn’t be a big surprise with Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua in the director’s chair. This also feels much more contemporary than White House Down; Roland Emmerich’s assault on the US President’s home had a distinct mid-‘90s flavour which at times sat at odds with the more overt post-9/11 threads within its plot. Fuqua’s film is undeniably 21st Century in tone and execution. The opening attack on the White House is both hard-hitting and pleasingly impressive; preceded by an emotional quasi-prologue - which, whilst ultimately ladling on the pathos too thickly, helps to frame the story simplistically but effectively - the opening third of Fuqua’s film suggests that it will end up superior to Emmerich’s effort.

Unfortunately, the director can’t keep up the momentum beyond the first act. Gerard Butler undoubtedly gets the job done as this film’s John McClane clone (or “McClone”, if you will) Mike Banning. Butler has chops to spare in the essential areas of beating up and/or killing bad guys and delivering witty insults, but delivers a performance devoid of anything you haven’t seen before in countless other mindless action flicks.

The support is where Olympus Has Fallen really disappoints - a surprise considering the big and usually reliable names here. Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher is entirely unmemorable beyond the opening act, occasionally reminiscent of The Dark Knight’s Harvey Dent but mostly doing very little of interest. Robert Forster is a welcome presence but is never given anything to justify his being there. Morgan Freeman mostly looks bored, half-asleep, or both.

Contrary to its strong opening, Olympus Has Fallen quickly falls into a well-trodden and episodic plot driven by characters making stupid decisions. President Asher does at least two things that make him seem more idiotic than George W. Bush. The motivations of antagonist Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) are never totally clear, seemingly dragging things out unnecessarily until Banning arrives to save the day before adding yet another stupid decision to the film’s total.

If you only see one White House-based action film this year, there are reasons both for and against choosing Olympus Has Fallen over its competitor. Fuqua’s film is arguably superior in terms of action, and has more impressive moments in isolation; White House Down is the more consistent of the two, as well as being more fun. There really isn’t much between them, with both movies delivering flawed but enjoyable action during which you can safely give your brain a couple of hours off.





By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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