Olympus Has Fallen (2013) – Review

Olympus Has Fallen is the first of the White House attack movies to take us hostage this year, with White House Down (which looks like literally the same movie) plodding slowly towards our screens for a June release.  Nodding its head strongly towards films like Die Hard and Air Force One, this is nothing we haven’t seen before:  the president is a kind, loving family man; the lead is ex special forces, expertly trained but haunted by a tragedy that forced him to leave the president’s service and break their close friendship; when some time has passed and something bad happens to the president, the lead must leave his past behind him and spring back into action to save the day.  It’s ticking all the boxes in extremely thick permanent marker, and from the very opening scene we can see exactly where the film is going, right down to which characters are going to live or die… yet none of that really bothered me.  I went in expecting more than anything to be bored, or at least thoroughly unimpressed, so it was to my joyful surprise that I was fairly gripped throughout.  I think it comes down to being well paced, with characters who we actually care about and action that thrills.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not breaking boundaries, and it’s certainly not up there with the likes of aforementioned Die Hard or Air Force One, which both do the same sort of thing but much better, but it is doing what it has to do perfectly well.  As action movies go, this is a success.

Calm before the storm

Gerard Butler is a bit hit and miss for me, sometimes being very likable on-screen but other times coming across as annoying and obnoxious.  He’s playing a very one-dimensional character here, but to be fair he’s playing it well and he’s definitely more likable than he has been in these types of movies in the past.  The cast behind him is also a strong one.  Safe-bet Aaron Eckhart – not given enough to do here – makes a believable president in crisis, and the likes of Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo are always welcome.

I take issue with the annoying time stamps and superimposed titles plastered onto almost every scene, as if we desperately need to know exactly what time everything is happening and that we’re too stupid to figure out who’s talking or where they are.  In one scene, for example, Banning makes his way to the Lincoln bedroom – a fact that doesn’t make a difference to the plot if we know it or not – yet we still get a little superimposed title at the bottom corner of the screen telling us it’s the Lincoln bedroom and what time it is to the minute.  Why?  Who knows.  I wouldn’t mind if it was even partially necessary information, but it really is completely pointless.  I’ve noticed this trend growing recently, with one of the worst offenders being Arnie’s The Last Stand.  The film was great fun, but almost every scene had a completely pointless time stamp that in the end resulted in nothing.

It’s a film born out of current global affairs and for certain it can be seen as a form of propaganda, but hey, on a purely entertainment level, this is pretty entertaining.  White House Down, what have you got?

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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