johnlink ranks OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was a minor release most notable for being thought of as second fiddle to the similarly themed WHITE HOUSE DOWN. Morgan Freeman stars in OLYMPUS. So it’s sort of like when he made DEEP IMPACT just as the mega budget ARMAGEDDON was getting set to come out. Moral of the story? Oh. Wait. There is no moral. Right. Ok, so… here’s a review.


I watched OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013) in 1.6.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is a film made in the vein of an 80s or 90s film with the goal of entertaining with little regard for realism. In many of the ancestors of OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, care was taken to not break certain rules. Movies stayed within a certain scope. If a commando was taking over a boat, for example, we knew his plot involved money rather than ending the world. A woman would usually be involved, but she was always safe. Soldiers would die, perhaps a couple incidental civilians would die. If the screenwriter wanted to be particularly brutal, an animal might die. The hero would, of course, do all of the right things while the bad guys blundered. A fight would occur, the good guys win.

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN has most of that stuff. In fact, by the end, it devolves into a surprisingly routine action movie. The path it takes to get there is less routine. The scope of the movie begins as immensely large. A North Korean plane attacks the White House. It guns down civilians and tears holes in the flag and cripples the Washington Monument. The President (Aaron Eckhart) and a bunch of his staff huddles in a bunker with a South Korean delegation. The demands have to do with the Americans stepping down in Korea. Then, however, the scope of the movie shrinks for awhile. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (a very capable Gerard Butler) manages to get into the White House and stay alive. For a good chunk of the movie, the focus is on getting the President’s son (Finley Jacobsen) out.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) has temporarily become President. He is flanked by veteran actors playing high ranking officials, filling out the cast with the likes of Robert Forster and Angela Bassett. Other big names come in and out of focus as well. Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Rick Yune, Cole Hauser, and Ashley Judd all show up. Sometimes such a large cast spells doom for a movie like this, here nobody is mailing it in. It actually works somehow.

When the movie returns to a large focus at the end, with the master plan of the criminals playing out, OLYMPUS loses some luster. It doesn’t become terrible, just mundane. In getting to that point the film breaks a bunch of rules. Women are killed brutally. The assailants are vicious and successful. Hostages are subject to execution at any minute. In some ways, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is a 90s action flick in a post torture-porn world. Audiences, it is assumed, can handle all sorts of killing and blood and death on the way as long as the hero does what he is supposed to at the end. If this was DIE HARD, it would just be McClain and his wife left, with everyone else having been tortured, brutalized, used, and executed. This all makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN a surprisingly unpredictable movie in some spots. Others, like the confrontation between Banning and a former colleague, go as would be suspected.

This isn’t to suggest that OLYMPUS is some how revolutionary or important. Ultimately, it is an entertaining action flick with a brutal sensibility and little regard for collateral damage. It works, certainly, on an adrenaline rush level provided the audience is willing to suspend disbelief to a sizable extent. The performances and the intensity, guided by director Antoine Fuqua, earn that for me, though where that line falls is most certainly a subjective matter. For others, this may be too silly to be relevant.

Here, though, it will go into the action movie rotation. I liken it to something like CON AIR: A motion picture which is all movie with little film. Something which you know is absolutely outside the realm of possibility, but which manages to entertain despite its fantastical premise.



5+9+6+6+0= 26



~ by johnlink00 on January 7, 2014.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)”

  1. More or less agreed. Nothing earth shattering or new here, but it’s entertaining enough to hold attention.

  2. Caught White House Down over this, sounds like there is little to distinguish them. That enjoyably stupid/stupidly enjoyable crossover scenario.

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