Review: “Olympus Has Fallen” is an early summer blockbuster

April 5th, 2013 at 8:08 am by under Entertainment

Start with John Rambo, lose some of the muscle, improve the vocabulary, amp up the thriller element, set it in present day and make it the main character’s job to save the White House instead… and you have “Olympus Has Fallen”.

Warning to Parents: This is rated R for “strong violence and language throughout”… its sometimes brutal and intense, so its not for kids.

"Olympus Has Fallen"  poster courtesy FilmDistrict

“Olympus Has Fallen” poster courtesy FilmDistrict

(My spoiler-free review)

That first line may be unfairly simplistic, but it was meant as a starting point to compliment a March action movie release that I was cautiously optimistic to see and left the theater pleasantly surprised.   This is more than a typical 1980s action movie with a bulked up movie star… forget Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Jean Claude Van Damme, this is more the Bruce Willis or Jason Statham action hero, who has some vulnerability but lots of courage and training.

Sure we start out with the family dynamics of our main characters Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) but that’s just to get us some backstory and character depth.   If you know the premise, the first 15 minutes is all backstory and character development and introductions, but once we get into the attack on the White House, the movie is firing on all cylinders.

For me, this is Butler’s best action performance since 2008′s “RockNRolla” … he’s strong, smart, and courageous but not without his own layers of problems that could make him vulnerable…. not just Butler’s performance, this movie is also one of the best action movies so far this year.

The supporting cast is full of veteran actors: Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Robert Forster, and Ashley Judd… but the way the thrilling story goes, its hard to know who’s going to make it through to the end.

The style of the movie puts us right into the action – its not just an attack, its a well conceived plan – the attackers did their homework, knowing the protocols and government response to what they would be doing.   As the attack continues, it goes from being scary to more and more intense… as the attackers use devices and things that – by themselves- may not seem like they’re part of the attack but added up, they are frightening to think of happening.

Gerard Butler in "Olympus Has Fallen" photo courtesy FilmDistrict

Gerard Butler in “Olympus Has Fallen” photo courtesy FilmDistrict

“Olympus Has Fallen” has lots of action, but lots of violence, lots of deaths, lots of suffering -the attackers are highly trained, brutal and ruthless – this is clearly not a few terrorists acting alone, we begin to realize this is an organized attack – giving us the gravity of the situation, its more than what the secret service can handle.

We get some standard action storytelling devices with someone to rescue, overwhelming odds, new technology, a device that must also be shutdown, the hero knowing more than the people in charge, someone saying the title of the movie…. but we get some of them in more clever ways than the average action movie.  There are also some memorable one liners.

It was also a nice touch having Morgan Freeman as the speaker of the house – becoming acting President after the attack – similar to “Deep Impact” (1998) when he was the calm voice of President Beck during another crisis.

Some of the situations are over-the-top and exaggerated and the plot points ridiculous, but if you can believe that Rambo could take on an entire army by himself, you’ll enjoy this movie.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Sure its quite violent and intense, but with thrilling moments like mini cliff hangers throughout the movie, combined with moments of serious dramatic acting and some comic relief, I found this to be a perfect “bubble gum – popcorn movie”… I give it 7.0 out of 10.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers):

Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman in "Olympus Has Fallen" photo courtesy FilmDistrict

Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman in “Olympus Has Fallen” photo courtesy FilmDistrict

“Olympus Has Fallen”

(2013) (rated: R for strong violence and language throughout)
(2 hours)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Phil Austin, James Ingersoll, Freddy Bosche, Lance Broadway, Sean O’Bryan, Keong Sim, Kevin Moon, Malana Lea, Robert Forster, Sam Medina, Ashley Judd

Director: Antoine Fuqua ["Training Day" (2001),  "Tears of the Sun" (2003),  "King Arthur" (2004),  "Shooter" (2007),  "Brooklyn's Finest" (2009)]

Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt

Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller

The Plot: Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

“Olympus Has Fallen” poster and photos courtesy FilmDistrict

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