Movie Review: ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Olympus Has Fallen Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning in ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ (Photo credit: Phillip V. Caruso)

Earlier this year, John McClane took a giant dump on audiences, traveling to Russia to rescue the son no one ever cared about and setting a tragically low bar for the Die Hard franchise. What does that have to do with director Antoine Fuqua’s movie about a terrorist attack on the White House, Olympus Has Fallen? Well, let’s do a little game of This versus That.

Olympus Has Fallen: Terrorists take over a building the day after July 4th, hold people hostage, and attempt to hack into a secure government system.
Die Hard: Terrorists take over a building during a Christmas party, hold people hostage, and attempt to crack a giant vault.

Olympus Has Fallen: A Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler), previously kicked off Presidential detail, finds himself alone in the White House attempting to defeat the bad guys and save the President (Aaron Eckhart).
Die Hard: A New York City Cop (Bruce Willis) finds himself alone in Nakatomi Plaza attempting to defeat the bad guys and save his wife (Bonnie Bedelia).

Olympus Has Fallen: Butler uses a Bluetooth headpiece and satellite phone to stay in contact with the only black characters in the movie, the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) and the Director of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett).
Die Hard: Willis uses a radio and a car phone to stay in contact with the only black characters in the movie, a LAPD cop (Reginald VelJohnson) and a limo driver (De’voreaux White).

Olympus Has Fallen: Butler and the President’s son use the inner tunnels and secret passageways of the White House to avoid detection (to varying degrees of success).
Die Hard: Willis uses the ventilation ducts of Nakatomi Plaza to avoid detection (to varying degrees of success).

What does all of this boil down to? Why in the hell wasn’t this the script for Die Hard 5?!? All you need to do is replace Butler with Willis and you’ve got a pretty kick-ass Die Hard. As it stands, A Good Day to Die Hard was A Bad Day to be in a Movie Theater and Olympus Has Fallen is a fairly decent action flick. It benefits greatly from being rated-R, allowing for high collateral damage when the terrorists make their first move and a continuing body count once Butler gets to work clearing 1600 Pennsylvania Ave of its uninvited guests.

There are plenty of instances that I’m sure would have Secret Service agents either fuming or doubling over in laughter about; as certain protocols and actions made by officials seem counter-intuitive to actually protecting the assets in jeopardy. However, if one simply allows the brain to ignore occasional lapses of logic, this is the kind of popcorn muncher more typically associated with the summer movie season. (I would imagine releasing a movie about terrorism committed on American soil just after the 4th of July closer to the actual holiday might be a harder sell.)

The entire cast does what they’re asked to do, posturing and spitting rhetoric at all the expected times. Fuqua does a decent job of staying out of the way for the most part, actually allowing fights to take place outside of the ultra-close-up technique too often employed these days. He does succumb to certain attempts at iconic moments (most of which involve the US Flag) that come off as more than a little hokey and my biggest problem with this aspect was that so much of the Rah Rah America stuff came off as a bit staged, rather than an organic development of the events as they unfolded. About the only thing missing for an overload of cheese factor was having Eckhart go full Harrison and tell the terrorists to ‘Get Out of My House!’.

There’s a subplot concerning Butler’s wife that just needed to be excised completely from the script as it adds less than nothing to the overall effort. Likewise, there’s an attempt to play up the less than cuddly relationship between Butler and Freeman via a few lines of dialogue here and there that aren’t reinforced well enough to make it matter and they end up being mostly empty sentences.

That’s a whole lot of words from me. You’re probably still wondering if this movie is for you. It’s actually quite simple. Do you like the premise of Die Hard? Do you like action movies where the R-rating allows people to suffer actual deaths, rather than the PG-13 treatment of off-camera murders and a string of baddies knocked unconscious rather than into their graves? If you said yes, then Olympus Has Fallen is probably up your alley. It’s one of the better action movies to come out in years, which isn’t saying much as I can’t seem to remember any great ones in recent memory, but if you’re a fan of the genre, this one’s actually worth the price of admission.

I still wish it had been the fifth Die Hard though. If anyone’s invented time travel yet and wants to be a part of rectifying this situation, feel free to let me know. I’ve also got a history report I could have used a little help on.


Olympus Has Fallen opens in theaters on March 22, 2013 and is rated R for strong violence and language throughout.