Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Olympus Has Fallen Review

Gerard Butler stars in Die Hard in the White House, aka Olympus Has Fallen! Fuck yeah! Forget Team America, this flag waving assault on the heart of American political power is gloriously old school; explosive, unapologetic, possibly pretty xenophobic but a hell of a lot of fun.

Olympus Has Fallen has secret service man Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) as the only guy left standing on the inside of the White House when North Korean terrorists break in, sealing themselves in the bunker below with the President (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff. Banning has to get all John McClane on the rest of the baddies in order to save the President, the President's son and anyone else caught in the firing line of these dastardly North Koreans.

Olympus Has Fallen is the kind of movie I grew up on. In the wake of Die Hard, we were treated to Die Hard on a boat (Under Seige), on a plane (Passenger 57), on a train (Under Seige 2), in an airport (Die Hard 2), on a bus (Speed), on another boat (Speed 2)... bascially anywhere you could set one man against a group of heavily armed terrorists, we got it! But never Die Hard in the White House... until now!

I suspect most screenwriters would have laughed at the idea of terrorists not only getting into the White House but also into the bunker beneath with the President so any ideas were scrapped early on. But the bonkers premise provides an absolutely awesome assualt early in Olympus Has Fallen which the rest of the film struggles to live up to.

The terrorists are ruthless, efficient and incredibly bold in their manouvres and the guards and secret service men at the White House suddenly find themselves hopelessly ountnumbered and out gunned. Olympus Has Fallen actually manages to make this outrageous scenario seem plausible, despite the ridiculous number of special agents that willingly run into high calibre gunfire. It's an epic set piece; violent, explosive, erratic, chaotic and almost completely believable. And boy does the body count rise quickly.

Butler's Mike Banning finds himself virtually alone in the White House, playing cat and mouse with disposable North Korean baddies while the executions and body count continue to rise around him. His dispatch techniques are unapolegetically brutal, his quips not quite the standard of John McClane's best but still providing the odd laugh.

Olympus Has Fallen is old school to the core. It is bloody, brutal and unashamed of its patriotic, bordering on racist caricatures. When I was growing up, the baddies were always clearly labelled as the Russians or the Chinese or the Libyans or some other nationality. It never made me fear these people and I hope this film is accepted as the silly escapist piece of fiction it is. Conveniently it is not the North Koreans that are behind it but a North Korean terrorist cell but this also makes for a memorably savage villain in Rick Yune's Kang. Most importantly, his motivation has something to with an American land mine and therefore despite his brutality and ultimately devastating master plan, he is a man with an almost understandable grudge against the US of A.

You know what to expect when a film opens with the President sparring in a boxing ring with his trusted secret service man. Olympus Has Fallen is silly, big, loud action fun. It earns its 15 rating with plenty of blood and bone crunching violence, far more satisfying than the recent A Good Day to Die Hard.

Olympus Has Fallen is the Die Hard movie we've been waiting for since Die Hard With a Vengeance. Roland Emmerich's similar White House Down will have its work cut out to match the all out excess and explosive thrills and fun of Olympus Has Fallen. Gerard Butler and director Antoine Fuqua have raised their flag high with this one. Despite the cliches and the villainous stereotypes, Olympus Has Fallen is a throwback to simpler action films of the past and is all the better for it. Fuck yeah.

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