Gerard Butler as Mike Banning
Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher
Finley Jacobsen as Connor
Dylan McDermott as Dave Forbes
Rick Yune as Kang
Morgan Freeman as Speaker AllanTrumbull
Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs
Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan
Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg
Radha Mitchell as Leah
Cole Hauser as Roma
Phil Austin as Vice President Charlie Rodriguez
James Ingersoll as Admiral Nathan Hoenig
Ashley Judd as Margaret Asher
Freddy Bosche as Diaz
Lance Broadway as O’Neil
Sean O’Bryan as Ray Monroe
Keong Sim as Lee Tae-Woo
Kevin Moon as Cho
Malana Lea as Lim
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Korean terrorists have staged an attack on the White House, taking the President (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff hostage, leaving it up to lone Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to save everyone.
Remember that year when there were two movies about asteroids destroying earth? Well, it looks like the lack of ideas in Hollywood is running rampant again as this year, we’re going to get no less than two movies about the White House being invaded by terrorists. Even before Roland Emmerich has a chance to show what he can do with “White House Down” later in the year, “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua has made his own invasion action-thriller that does a fairly good job at out-Roland Emmerich-ing Emmerich with lots of death and destruction and not much in the way of credibility.
Before we get to the invasion, we watch a prologue with the President (Aaron Eckhart) and his family at Camp David for Christmas, but when their motorcade skids on an icy bridge and goes over the edge, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) has to make the tough decision to save the President and sacrifice his wife (Ashley Judd). Who knows what the point of this prologue is except to show that Banning has knowledge of the White House while no longer being on staff there, but 18 months later, Banning has taken up a desk job away from the President. When enemy forces invade the White House and the surrounding area with high-powered gattling guns, Mike happens to be in the right place at the right time to save the day.
It’s not hard to believe Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent who happens to be ex-Special Ops, and he does a fine job taking on the role of action star, playing it a bit more seriously than the likes of Willis, Stallone or Schwarzenegger might have done. He basically spends the movie kicking @$$ and tells people to eff-off as he saves the President’s young son from being used against him. It’s a little harder to believe Banning is the only trained specialist anywhere near the White House smart enough to duck behind a column and avoid getting killed in order to get inside while hundreds die around him. That’s the basic premise and if you’re unable to suspend disbelief then you’re probably going to be sunk as the movie gets even more ridiculous.
The invaders are led by a Korean terrorist named Kang (Rick Yune), who wants the United States to pull out of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, using his control of the White House and the President to get everything he wants. What’s funny is that the first thing the President says to everyone on his staff after being captured is that they don’t negotiate with terrorists, and what do they spend the entire movie doing? Negotiating with the terrorist!
Like many of Emmerich’s movies, the weakest part of “Olympus Has Fallen” is its flimsy by-the-books characters and the stiff dialogue. At the core of the problem is that Aaron Eckhart is never really believable as President of the United States, which is fine since once he’s kidnapped, Morgan Freeman’s Speaker of the House takes control. Most will already know what a great President Freeman makes from the first of those asteroid movies mentioned earlier. And yet, Freeman, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster are basically relegated to a Pentagon room where it cuts back to them reacting to whatever’s going on between Kang and his hostages as Butler sneaks through the White House taking out his mercenaries. As overboard as Rick Yune goes with his scenery chewing as the main baddie, it’s nothing compared to Dylan McDermott, who spends much of the movie chain smoking and overacting in an odd New York accent.
The biggest waste among what’s a relatively decent cast is Melissa Leo as one of the President’s kidnapped staff who is picked as an example by Kang, although the treatment of her character is par for the course in a movie that kills off one woman in the first few minutes, beats up two others and then completely marginalizes Radha Mitchell as Mike’s wife, a character who serves even less expository purpose than Ashley Judd’s First Lady.
Fortunately, the movie has more than a few impressive set pieces that do deliver as Fuqua really pulls out the stops with the initial attack on the White House and a couple of failed rescue attempts as well as Butler’s fight sequences. Even so, the movie is so violent and bloody and grim in the amount of insurmountable odds heaped upon the government–most of them easily overcome by Butler’s character–it often takes away from it being an entertaining experience despite the impressive action sequences.
The Bottom Line:
“Olympus Has Fallen” is a better “Die Hard” movie than the most recent “Die Hard” movie, but it’s hard to quantify its entertainment value due to how ridiculous the whole thing comes across.