Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen

What is Olympus Has Fallen about? Because the commercials don’t really tell you anything, other than that it’s an action movie. It’s a big action movie, true to form, never straying at all far from the tropes of the genre. It’s about the President, kind of. The opening scene is of the President boxing one of his secret service agents at Camp David. It’s a big action movie.

I think it’s President Asher or something like that, but that kind of stuff never matters. In fact, just hearing “President Asher” only serves to remind the audience how not real any of this stuff is. Which to me is fine. You go to see an action movie, you have to suspend your belief in lots of things if you want to have a good time. But hearing stuff like “President Asher” kind of messes with the illusion somewhat.

Whatever, that’s a small point, Aaron Eckhart, who plays the President, is hardly in the movie at all. The boxing scene at the beginning is about as good as it gets, because almost immediately after, his wife dies in a freak falling-off-a-bridge accident.

The movie isn’t really about the President. It’s about the Koreans. And Gerard Butler. But really the Koreans. They don’t tell you any of that in the commercials. Because the Korean people are not well represented in this movie, that is, coming from this non-Korean’s perspective. I’m assuming it’s why it was left out of any advertisements.

They’re going for a good old-fashioned America vs. movie. America vs. what? You had Red Dawn in the eighties, but now there’s no Soviet Union anymore. And didn’t they just reboot that movie also? I can’t imagine how the story stood up to the geopolitics of 2013. So no Russia, no Middle East, I mean, those actions movies are all too depressing, too weighed down in the realities of the past decade.

North Korea. It just might work. There’s a sort of real threat coming from that direction. Technically we’re still at war, right? Brilliant, North Korea it is. Without ruining the movie, I’ll tell you that a rogue group of North Koreans stage an all out assault on the White House, capturing the President and some other senior officials in an underground bunker.

Before you say, “But, how? That doesn’t make sense,” the movie already has it answered: “It takes fifteen minutes for the armed forces to get to the White House. We took it down in thirteen.” Actions movies like this don’t have to rely on making sense or logistical plausibility, as long as they keep the helicopters crashing, the knives stabbing, and the Abe Lincoln busts bludgeoning, the audience will accept that the terrorists somehow got their hands on a prototype US antiaircraft gun. “How they hell did they get that?” somebody screams in the situation room, to which some general responds, “It doesn’t matter how they got it!”

After the White House is in enemy hands, our nation’s only hope lies in Gerard Butler, a former secret service agent who had a little something to do with the first lady falling off of that bridge. He sees the White House under attack, and he runs there, making it inside, everybody else dead, just he makes it, on foot, and eventually he finds a conveniently placed Bluetooth cell phone that somehow maintains constant communication with the situation room.

Also, Morgan Freeman, in a surprise move, is demoted from Hollywood’s favorite black President to America’s first fictitious black Speaker of the House. I was like, what the hell? How can you have a table full of fake officials and not automatically defer to Morgan Freeman? But it’s OK, because after the Vice President gets executed, Freeman gets to be acting President for the rest of the movie. That’s more like it.

Olympus Has Fallen was entertaining, although not as entertaining as say The Rock, or Con Air, or Apocalypto. I feel like six months from now we’re all going to be watching it on USA or TBS. This movie looks like it was made specifically for strategically placed TV commercial breaks. The pace definitely slowed down toward the end, and I didn’t have that same sitting on the edge of my seat feeling that I usually get toward the climax of good actions movies. But that’s because I think it was a relatively safe film, a pretty safe script, a safe cast, a safe time of the year when not a lot of cool stuff is playing in theaters.

But it’s an OK movie, if you like over the top action flicks. I don’t want to spoil anything, but somewhere around the middle, Butler tells the main villain, Kang, that he’s going to “stab you through your brain with my knife.” Who do you think wins in the end and how do you think he does it?

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