Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen

2013, R, 120 min. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Finley Jacobsen, Ashley Judd, Radha Mitchell.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 22, 2013

Everything dies harder at the White House. And, no, not just pieces of legislation, but the brick-and-mortar infrastructure in Olympus Has Fallen – which basically follows the playbook of Die Hard in the White House. The first of two movies this year in which the iconic abode of the U.S. president and his family is decimated by terrorists (Roland Emmerich’s White House Down is scheduled to arrive in June), Olympus Has Fallen kicks things off at a fever pitch. After an opening prologue which explains how Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) came to be relieved of his duties guarding the president’s family, the rest of the movie becomes the saga of how this lone man redeems his career by becoming the last – and only – defense against this fictional incursion into the White House.

The invasion occurs with an ease and rapidity that’s more breathtaking than any of the skirmishes that occur once the terrorists have entered the domicile. C-130s buzz the restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., while White House tourists turn into instant frontline infantry who make the capture of the White House seem like a cakewalk. For good measure, the Washington Monument is also struck, causing its implosion, loss of life, and flashbacks to 9/11. Once inside, the invaders fortify themselves with the president (Eckhart) and others within the impregnable bunker while unleashing their plan.

Timeliness is also on the side of this film, as the last couple weeks of saber-rattling and rocket launches by North Korea has made that country an evermore topical villain – though to be accurate, the terrorists are a renegade group of Koreans. Although it’s sure to have a different impact for viewers outside the U.S., the wholesale destruction of the White House ought to be imagery that will play particularly well in some foreign territories and add to the film’s international box office. Dresden after the firebombing of World War II looked more intact than does this White House once the dust settles.

After some misguided acting choices, Gerard Butler appears to have taken more control of his career by also serving as one of the producers on this action vehicle. Despite an American accent that goes dodgy on a couple of occasions, he performs capably as the film’s tarnished hero in a role that can’t help but echo Clint Eastwood’s disgraced Secret Service agent in In the Line of Fire. Melissa Leo has some standout scenes as the secretary of defense, who gets pretty well beaten up for defying her captors, but others, such as Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman (the acting president), have little to do but bite their lips and look tense from the confines of their command posts. With little character shading and wall-to-wall action, Olympus Has Fallen fittingly closes by wrapping itself in the American flag.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Antoine Fuqua Films
The Equalizer 2
Denzel Washington action sequel is a total misfire

Matthew Monagle, July 20, 2018

The Magnificent Seven
Revisionist remake stars a diverse rainbow coalition

Marjorie Baumgarten, Sept. 23, 2016

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Echo in the Canyon
History of the Laurel Canyon folk-rock scene gets lost in its own winding paths

June 21, 2019

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
A gentle, poetic look at gentrification that shimmers with the winds of history

June 14, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Olympus Has Fallen, Antoine Fuqua, Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Finley Jacobsen, Ashley Judd, Radha Mitchell

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle