A lot of people left Olympus Has Fallen, calling it Die Hard in the White House. Now, if the comparisons are to Live Free or Die Hard, I can understand the comparison, but this movie has absolutely nothing in common with the first three Die Hard movies outside of the skeleton plot line. The entire film has a great idea completely ruined by the choices that director Antoine Fuqua made.
The opening of the movie has some patriotic music playing and then the title has a waving American flag behind the words. Then, for the next two hours, Fuqua slams you over the head with his patriotism until you are completely desensitized to the notion and laugh whenever someone even talks about fighting for America. When a movie that lives and dies by the notion of patriotism makes you mock the entire belief, that movie fails.
Honestly, if you want a lot of explosions and bullet ridden bodies without ever caring about a story, you might like Olympus Has Fallen, because there is plenty of that. If you love movies that are so jingoistic that is almost makes you embarrassed, say like a Chuck Norris movie, you might like Olympus Has Fallen. If you want smart storytelling, good characters and a great action movie, stay far away.
The film starts off with Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent Mike Banning boxing with the President of the United States in the retreat at Camp David. Then, the President, his wife and son, and the Secret Service head out for a gala. However, an accident causes a major pile up and the President is saved, only to see the car with his wife in it topple from a bridge, killing her and leaving him a single father.
President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) does not blame Mike for saving him while his wife died, but he wants Mike off his staff, despite their strong connection, because seeing Mike reminds the President of his dead wife. Actually, the reason that he needs to get Mike off the team is so the script can place Mike on the outside when insurgents attack and capture the White House.
That is all this movie is about, plot devices added just to give the movie things to do. Most of the stuff in the movie makes no sense and is only there to move the plot, like a patchwork puzzle, with no rhyme or reason.
The reason that the bad guys have captured the White House is so generic it is silly. The plan of how they want to destroy the entire United States in fresh, but the way they get to that plan is just exploitative nonsense and dumb. They also have an inside man, a traitor, who helps them get in and the reason given for betraying his country is “I just lost my way.” You have got to be kidding me.
And don’t even get me started about the jingoistic arrogance of the script when it comes to America. Basically, the entire idea comes down to the fact that, if America pulls its forces out of the war in Korea, the entire world will crumble and fall into chaos. If the U.S. stops protecting the world, every other country will go on Red Alert, because without our help who will save them?
That is the message this movie presents.
Now, there are some positives about it – especially for those who want to turn off their brain and watch things explode. More people die in this movie than in any movie I have seen since The Expendables. Before the first attack on the White House, the bad guys thought it would be cool to machine gun down everyone who happened to be outside in the streets of D.C. that day. Then they slaughter every person at the White House. It is a total massacre and it so exploitative that you don’t even care by the end who lives and dies.
The only people this movie wants you to care about is Mike, the President, his son, and some random cabinet members. That is easy to do because Aaron Eckhart is, as usual, fantastic in his role as President. Melissa Leo is wonderful as the Secretary of Defense and has a great performance during a particularly brutal – and again exploitative – scene. The son is decent, played by Finley Jackson, but he is a plot device that is supposed to have the audience fear for him, but it is clear he is never in danger and is shipped out early.
Morgan Freeman and Robert Forster share some great scenes in the War Room as the Secretary of State and a lead general, but they just exist to give us talking heads to make decisions while Mike is making his way through the White House killing everyone on his way to save the President. Speaking of bad writing, early in the movie they mention that Mike at one time cursed out the Secretary of the State, but once they start communicating, nothing is ever hinted at. Almost like there was supposed to be tension between them that never occurred.
This movie is a mess. It is a big, loud, obnoxious mess, but it is not a good movie at all. For all the great ideas, the failures are even greater. Let’s hope the next White House in peril movie is an improvement.