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Olympus Has Fallen (2013) – Review

3 1/2 Stars


There is an unmistakable B-movie exuberance to the guilty pleasure flick Olympus has Fallen that can’t be denied. It may be escapism schlock but its done with energy, style and most importantly a sense of humor (not the self-deprecating kind that marred the last Die Hard installment). Sporting a top-notch cast with familiar faces and Oscar-winning actors in supporting roles, this Die Hard wannabe is actually the best of its kind since Under Siege.

North Korean extremists have taken control of the white house and the president along with it. Lapses in security protocol and trained personal have resulted in the first hostile take over of the most protected building in the world since the British burnt down the place in 1812. It is now up to formally disgraced secret service agent Mike Banning (Butler) to rescue the president and his young son, who is hiding within the covert corridors of the White House.

Gerard Butler is back in action-hero mode and frankly, it’s where he belongs. After ill-advised detours into romantic comedies that didn’t score and dramas that veered into melodrama, Butler is once again an engaging screen presence and a worthy successor to the everyman-hero archetype. Arron Eckhart who has played numerous politicians in pervious other films, is finally given the role of the Commander-in-Chief. It is appropriate casting and Eckhart makes for the most rugged and square-jawed leader since Harrison Ford took down terrorists in 1997s Air Force One. Classing up the joint is the nearly majestic presence of screen royalty Morgan Freeman who is excellent even in projects that seem beneath his talent level. I must admit after having been burnt out on her continually worsening film career, Ashley Judd makes a welcomed, albeit cameo return to the screen as a modern level-headed first lady. Then there is Dylan McDermott in the Alan Rickman/Tommy Lee Jones/Dennis Hopper/ Powers Booth role as the nefarious turncoat aiding the foreign military mastermind. McDermott isn’t the actor those perviously mentioned names are, he is a bit too lightweight to be taken seriously. But this villainous role coupled with an offbeat appearance in last years’ comedy The Campaign have made for two questionable career choices in a row.

There are moments when Olympus has Fallen lapses into a Team America parody territory, but director Antoine Fuqua is always quick to deflect your attention to another bit of nasty business taking place elsewhere in the story. It’s smart populist filmmaking, the kind that propels word of mouth and box-office grosses but is ultimately overlooked in the critical community.

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman

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