Olympus Has Fallen - Review

Olympus Has Fallen is best described as irresponsible trash. In the spirit of full disclosure I hated this film for a multitude of reasons. As I sit and write this, images are flashing over televisions and websites showing the destruction caused by crudely made bombs in Boston. In a post 9/11 world, terrorism is a real and frightening part of our lives. I clearly remember sitting with my family watching the horror unfold in New York as the Twin Towers came crashing down. It’s imagery that will be forever burned into my mind. So when I go into a film which promises bloodshed and mass destruction revolving around a terrorist act in an urban setting, forgive me if I’m slightly cynical and apprehensive.  

Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training day), Olympus Has Fallen is yet another poor Die Hard imitation. Hell, it’s not even Under Siege. It follows former secret-serviceman Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who has taken a desk job after the death of the First Lady (Ashley ‘yes I still act’ Judd) in a car accident that he held himself responsible for. Now time to start ticking some classic action film cliché boxes; Mike’s marriage to his Doctor Wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) is on the rocks, he’s unhappy at work and missing the action of his old job. But as fate would have it, it’s not long til Mike is forced back into the game as North Korean Spies sneak into the White House and all hell breaks loose. Good thing our man Mike is able to get inside and disrupt the party.

The sequence in which the White House is taken is very telling when it comes to ultimately what I hated about this film. It features an aircraft flying over Washington D.C indiscriminately mowing down civilians. It’s at least ten minutes of mindless, juvenile and explicit violence for the sake of violence. The entire sequence is dripping with terrible stunt work, horrendous computer graphics and is completely unrealistic. Take a look at your televisions, look what a few small explosions have caused. As soon as the ‘action’ started this film lost all credibility for me. Now obviously a film can never recreate what occurs during an actual attack, but then that’s why I guess most films of this genre focus on the smaller locations i.e. a boat, a building or a bus. They don’t try and take down and entire city. Not only did the aircraft rain down terror from above, there were ground troops shooting everything in sight, which just added to the calamitous and senseless violence. But of course our man Mike with the end bullets is able to shoot his way through the vast majority of them.

A troubling thought with this film is that it casts North Koreans as the villains. In the 80s it was the pesky Russians, who gave way to the Arabic baddies of the 90s and now Hollywood screenwriters obviously with their fingers on the political pulse have decreed that the North Koreans are ready to be promoted to bad guy number 1. This demonising of an entire country is what I’m struggling with. Yes we all see Kim Jong Un taunting the west and threatening to conquer the world but what does this film do for the millions of North Koreans suffering under his rule.

Film is such a powerful medium and it’s readily accessible to uneducated folk who take it as gospel on some level or another. The recent remake of the 80s film Red Dawn now has North Korean antagonists. How many people have you heard suggest North Korea was responsible for the explosions in Boston? It’s not a hard leap for people to take when mass media and storytelling bombards their senses without due diligence.

I don’t like Antoine Fuqua as a director, mostly because his films have a sense of style over substance. I never fell for Training Day, King Arthur was missing a third act and Shooter … um enough said. He keeps the action moving quickly I guess so we never get a chance to stop and take in how bad it actually is. This film squandered an outstanding cast comprised of Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Gerard Butler, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune and many more. I swear I even saw a little part of Morgan Freeman’s soul die as he delivered the clichéd drivel which was the script. 

There is a moment in this film where an American Flag is shot to pieces and thrown from the roof of the White House in slow motion. This sums up this film better than I could. It’s painfully stupid whilst thinking it’s smart. It fancies itself as an entertaining throwback to better films when in fact it’s an offensive assault on the senses. I think this could quickly become the film by which I judge others’ taste by. If you enjoyed this, then in the words of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, “This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Good bye”.


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