3/28/2013 - When the president is kidnapped and the White House is under siege, the only man who can save the nation is Secret Service agent and former Army Ranger Mike Banning in Olympus Has Fallen, a movie that takes place in a universe with some pretty terrible national security.
A terrorist and a relatively small number of guys who clearly did a lot of advance planning are able to infiltrate the White House and override pretty much every security system and the only failsafe is this one dude who isn’t even really supposed to be there. I don’t need my action movies to be blinding beacons of factual-ness, but a story with some basis in reality would be cool.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is our buff hero who has, of late, been sidelined to a boring U.S. Treasury job after an accident resulted in the death of the First Lady (Ashley Judd). It isn’t Banning’s fault, but President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) can’t bear to look at him and be reminded of that terrible night.
So when a rogue airplane is headed to the White House, shooting up the streets of Washington and kicking off an attack on the building, Mike has to run from next door to try to fight off the intruders. He’s Just That Much of a Hero. The attackers, led by North Korean baddie Kang (Rick Yune), are not only able to take control of the White House but also, with some clever maneuvering, able to hold the president and a few members of the national security team hostage in the supposedly safe underground bunker. What is Kang’s plan? We’re not sure (ever, really) but it has something to do with the codes for a super-secret program that can self-destruct our nuclear weapons. Of course, our brave president would never give up the codes — or, if Kang was holding his young son Connor (Finely Jacobson), might the president have no choice?
Look, I get it. I like watching a slightly bloodied Gerard Butler kick butt as much as the next person. Sure, I liked it better when he had those painted-on CGI abs in The 300, but here, in office wear, is OK too. And I get that a movie where Speaker of the House Morgan Freeman gets to say things like “pull back the Seventh Fleet” as though he were saying “move that small end table next to the window” and not “move those 60-some-odd ships many hundreds of miles quick like a bunny” is not a movie that is about accuracy. But still, the MacGuffin of the super-secret missile destruct program is just a little too much stupidity. There are too many “only the president can X” and “there’s no way to override the Y.” Using the word “password” as the password to an email account you share with four other people is pretty much just as secure as the all-important self-destruct program here.
The stupidity of this plot device bleeds into the rest of the story. “We have to save the president” is a constant refrain (does anybody ever really stick to “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”?). But it would feel more like I was watching something based in some kind of recognizable universe if just one person said “Do we really? Because President Two-Face may already be dead but with acting-President Morgan Freeman sitting right here the chain of command and continuity of government is all taken care of.” Just one person. You give me that, movie, and I’ll totally buy all the scenes where Butler kills like five guys at once or whatever.
Olympus Has Fallen traded in logic for more drum on the soundtrack and is thusly a bombastic, ridiculous movie which is too goofy to be the enjoyable cheesefood it should have been. C
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt, Olympus Has Fallen is an hour and 59 minutes long and is distributed by FilmDistrict.