This bad film is a brilliant B-movie
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Let’s be clear right off the bat: Olympus Has Fallen is terrible. It’s easily director Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day) weakest effort and it’s among the very worst of Morgan Freeman’s films — and he’s done almost 100 movies.
But as a B-movie, Olympus Has Fallen rocks. Olympus owns up to its bizarre premise and that becomes the film’s saving grace: the heroes are nearly indestructible, the villains are beyond redemption and the body count is sky-high. If your expectations are low, you’ll have a rollicking good time. (Think Die Hard meets The West Wing.)
Gerard Butler (the patron saint of disposable entertainment these days) is Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent assigned to the president (Aaron Eckhart). Banning faces an impossible decision — and without giving anything away, let’s just say shit goes wrong and he’s quickly sent packing from the White House as a result.
Cut to 18 months later, as the President receives the South Korean Prime Minister in the midst of growing hostility from North Korea. It turns out the northerners (Hollywood’s villains du jour) have infiltrated the foreign leader’s security detail, surrounded the White House with tourist-slash-terrorists and stolen a bomber aircraft. It takes them less than half an hour to overrun 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the response teams are nowhere in sight.
Enter Banning, who knows every nook and cranny in the White House (and who’s apparently better at taekwondo than the people who invented it). He’s got to rescue the president before the singularly incompetent emergency government gives in to all the North Koreans’ demands, including the sacrifice of 50 million people for the sake of one man who’s no longer in charge.
If I started to list all the inconsistencies and illogical behaviour in Olympus Has Fallen it would take up half of this newspaper. At some point, you take a page from Morgan Freeman (who looks dismayed for most of the movie) and just stop caring about the rampant stupidity on screen. It’s like an expensive, ludicrous episode of 24. (In fact, Jack Bauer once solved a similar problem, but it only took him an hour.)
Olympus is the kind of film that Team America made fun of back in the day: the tattered American flag displayed in slow motion, the boundless trust placed in firearms and single-man armies, and a U.S. President so stoic he seems made of granite. Hell, there’s even a kid capable of outsmarting the same gunmen who wiped out pretty much the entire Secret Service minutes earlier.
Why Fuqua would accept this thankless gig is a mystery, but at least he doesn’t half-ass it. The action sequences are non-stop and above average, although they don’t add up to anything more than well-made camp. The villains — Rick Yune and Dylan McDermott — lack the gravitas to be considered an actual threat, although Yune’s cold viciousness is quite entertaining.
Olympus Has Fallen beat the similarly themed White House Down to screens by roughly three months — probably a good thing for its prospects, since WHD has far more star power (Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx) and a specialist at the helm (disaster film whiz Roland Emmerich).
But here’s betting it can’t possibly have a better silliness factor.