Olympus Has Fallen (2013) a (mildly) belated review

With many, if not most action films, you often are forced to overlook dumb/improbable things that occur in order to enjoy the feature.

For example, nearly every James Bond film has that scene where our hero is captured by the villain.  Instead of pulling out a gun and putting a bullet through Bond’s head, ending all unpleasantness right then and there, our villain inevitably decides now is the perfect time to tell Bond all about his plans before (usually) leaving him alone in some overly complex death trap he will inevitably figure a way out of.  Thus, when Bond is free once again, he knows where to go and what to do to triumph.

Moving away from Bond specifically and into action films in general, its hard not to notice that when bullets fly, they seem to have a really hard time finding the hero…but a much easier time finding the bodies of the villain and his henchmen.

I could go on and on with other, perhaps lesser examples, but suffice it to say I offer the above to segue into this:  Olympus Has Fallen is an awfully dumb action film.  Perhaps one of the dumber ones I’ve seen in a long time.

And yet…I can’t deny finding it entertaining as well.

Olympus Has Fallen is the first -and lower budgeted- of the two “White-House-gets-nuked-by-terrorists” films released this year (White House Down being the other, bigger budgeted one).  The movie opens with a sequence that, frankly, didn’t even need to be in the film at all:  We see the President (Aaron Eckhart) leaving Camp David with his wife (Ashley Judd, in what amounts to a very small cameo) during a snowstorm and their limo winds up crashing through a bridge guard gate.  The President’s personal bodyguard/secret service man, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), is forced to pull the President out of the limo just before it falls off the bridge but is unable to save his still trapped wife.

Eighteen months later, we find that Banning is now working for the Treasury (the President doesn’t want him around as his personal bodyguard because, even though everyone, including the President know his actions were correct, the mere act of Banning being around the President reminds him of this loss).  Banning wants to get back into his old job but knows it is difficult to get past the emotions.  Therefore, he does his paperwork and hopes to one day move back into the job he was meant for.

Enter: tensions between North and South Korea.

We find that a delegation of South Koreans, including their Premier, are coming to the White House for high level negotiations.  In the middle of negotiations, a large, U.S. military aircraft starts strafing Washington D.C. with high caliber bullets, slaughtering many people and causing incredible mayhem.  The President and the South Korean delegation head to the “bunker” under the White House where it is revealed the security detail of the South Korean leader are, in fact, a group of terrorists.  They take out the security details around the President and now have him and his immediate staff under their control.

Outside, a small army of North Korean (?) terrorists have emerged from hiding and are locking down the area immediately around the White House.  Banning runs from his job at the Treasury Department and makes it into White House grounds before the area is sealed.  By the time he reaches the doors of the White House and enters the bullet ravaged structure, he alone is left to fight the terrorists off…and free the President of the United States.

Before we go any further, let’s get to the dumb stuff.  I suppose I could enumerate all the dumb things that happen in the film but, in the interests of brevity, let me point out three of the juicier ones (Some mild SPOILERS follow):

1) Perhaps the biggest dumb thing this movie wants us to accept is the idea that an unauthorized military aircraft essentially can make it alll the way to the Washington monument while strafing the grounds with countless bullets before finally being taken out.  In pre-9-11 times I could envision something like this taking the U.S. defense forces by surprise.  Post 9-11…it is an awfully hard thing to swallow.

2) I keep having visions of Banning just outside the entrance of the White House, crouching behind a cement pillar in relative safety while wave after wave of soon to be dead (and most certainly brain dead) Secret Service members run out of the structure only to get mowed down by heavy machine gun fire.  Perhaps we needed better editing in this sequence, but all those supposed “professionals” came out looking like lemmings!

3) The traitor.  The moment I saw this recognizable actor in what appeared to be a “minor” role, I KNEW he was going to revealed as a baddie.  After this revelation, he delivers some ferociously nasty lines to the captured President of the United States and looks, for all intents and purposes, VERY willing to kill him.  But when he is sent (alone, of course) after Banning and the two eventually clash and Banning has him at his mercy, it takes a grand total of two seconds for the traitor to completely flip.  He agrees to help Banning out against the terrorists as his last act.  Seriously?!?

Ok, so there are a few of the really silly ones.  But the bottom line is this:  As silly as the film was, it moved.  There was very little fat -other than the opening sequence- to take up your time.  The good guys are good (if a little bit slow) and the bad guys, including Rick Yune as Kang, the head terrorist, are deliciously bad.

The movie never really lets up once it gets going, delivering a higher body count combination of 24 and Die Hard while entertaining you just enough to (almost) forget the silliness.  No, we’re not talking Oscar caliber material here…but if you’re in the mood for some pretty good action and aren’t the type to get too hung up on dumb plot points, you could do a whole lot worse than check out Olympus Has Fallen.