PG Cooper: Olympus Has Fallen Review

Posted: April 2, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews



In 2001, Antoine Fuqua made a name for himself with Training Day. The film garnered a lot of positive reviews and won Denzel Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor. Ersonally, I think the script is a mess and the only elements that save Training Day are the performances and Fuqua’s direction, which employs a handle on tone and pacing. Since then, Fuqua has directed a couple of action films which have been met with mediocre reviews and in general haven’t left much of an impact. The only film of his that I’ve seen from this period was Shooter, which I found extremely forgettable. This brings us to Fuqua’s newest effort; Olympus Has Fallen, an action film which has the strengths and weaknesses I’d expect.

The film follows Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the former head of the President’s security. Banning is considered the best at what he does, but was released after a decision to save the President (Aaron Eckhart) led to the death of the President’s wife. However Banning is forced to return to duty when the White House is taken over by North Koreans who take the President hostage. With the chips down, Banning is the only hope of saving the President and America as we know it.

One of the strongest elements of the film is the cast. Almost every role is filled by an actor who is an ideal choice for the part. Aaron Eckhart as the President, Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Melissa Leo as the secretary of defense; all casting choices which make a lot of sense. Admittedly, Leo’s talents aren’t fully utilized, but she doesn’t detract from the film either. Gerard Butler is very effective as the lead action star. After years of slumping it in romantic comedies, it was nice to see Butler back to what he does best. He’s definitely believable as a badass soldier and he handles the witty banter pretty well too.

The action scenes are pretty solid. I was relieved early on to discover this was an R rated film and the action shows it. It isn’t super graphic, but there is blood and it is palpable when people bite the dust. There are a number of solid shootouts and chases throughout. Fuqua is also smart in that he doesn’t throw excess action at the audience. There are quieter moments which give the viewer time to breath. This also keeps the action from going stale.

The plot is essentially a retread of Die Hard. The basic premise of the wrong guy in the wrong place in the wrong time comes from the action classic, but the similarities don’t end there. Olympus Has Fallen hits a lot of the same beats Die Hard does and does it in rather obvious ways. Everything from the premise, to the hero/villain relationship, to the twists of the film are pulled right from John McTiernan’s 1988 film. On one hand, this is a positive because the film is imitating a plot that works so Olympus Has Fallen works to some extent as well. The downside is it gives the viewer a feeling of, “Been there, done that.” Even if one hasn’t seen Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen will still feel familiar. In addition, the film also suffers from some weak dialogue and poor special effects.

Ultimately, the film’s greatest sin is a rather simple one; it’s very forgettable. Despite being mostly competent, there is nothing about this film that sticks. The story is derivative, and there have been better white house attacks, such as the opening action scene to X2. Even the action, which is solid, is completely unremarkable. With the exception of maybe the opening raid on the White House, none of the action scenes seem special. They’re all fine and work within the film, but there is nothing memorable about them.

Lack of memorability seems to be a running theme of the film. It’s only been two days since I’ve seen it and the film has already slipped considerably. It’s competent sure, but there’s a lot more to a good film than simply not sucking. Granted, it is an enjoyable enough watch and there certainly are worse ways to spend time at a theater, but there’s nothing here worth rushing out and seeing.


  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review PG. It’s a fun movie, that does take itself a bit too seriously, but always keeps it’s action, humor, and gore at the perfect amount.

  2. ianthecool says:

    “There’s a lot more to a film tha n simply not sucking.” I’m going to steal that line some time.

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