wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen is an action film that is hard to take seriously, and is best enjoyed with your tongue firmly in your cheek. Gerard Butler keeps things fun in a film that otherwise has little going for it in terms of plot or execution.Read more
Training Day and Shooter director Antoine Fuqua’s latest film Olympus Has Fallen is the kind of generic Hollywood action film that the world has been seeing for ages now, with only a slight change in setting; this time the action occurs inside what should be the most guarded and fortified building in the world – The White House. Never easing up on the corn or the been-there-seen-that, the film mercifully whizzes by you fast enough to make it a breezy watch, albeit one where you are always only being patronizing towards it.
Mike Banning, erstwhile head of US President Benjamin Asher’s security detail and now reassigned to other duties because of a tragedy that occurred on his watch, is rudely jolted back into the thick of the action when a terrorist group takes over and occupies the White House in a 9/11-meets-26/11-style brute force attack, holding the nation to ransom. With the clock ticking, Banning is the only hope that the US government has in preventing a full-scale catastrophe, while tensions are rising between two East Asian nuclear powers, the conflict between whom is the root behind the terror attack in the first place.
The only time the film really had me thinking was a bit was early on, during the initial attack on the White House; because I couldn’t help feel that no matter how outlandish the events unfolding in the film looked, the White House and other such buildings across the world would probably be quite vulnerable to a well-planned attack. That moment of serious thought didn’t last long however, as, in the most blatantly obvious attempt at symbolism, the pyramidal top of the Washington Monument, the tallest structure in Washington DC, comes crashing down a few minutes before the White House is taken and someone exclaims in Hollywood-ese, “Olympus Has Fallen!” (Olympus, of course, is the mythical home of the Greek Gods, and if it really is the code name that is used for the White House, then the US Government clearly makes no bones about what they think of themselves.)
From then on, because of its relentless pace and a few truly cheeky lines of dialogue, you play along with the silliness and the self-righteous Americanism that the film indulges in, even though you have no doubt how the film will pan out. Mike Banning, of course, is your everyday John McClane-type action hero – enterprising, badass and always a step ahead of the evil mastermind, even if he pretends to always be playing catch-up. He even channels Bond and Rambo often while systematically attempting to win back the White House.
With some veteran actors playing bit roles as various US Government officials – Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster and Angela Bassett all make appearances – the collective seriousness with which everyone takes their roles can make you grin. Aaron Eckhart as the President makes for a dashing and charming First Man, no doubt, but I wonder how they thought of casting someone who looks younger than Teddy Roosevelt or JFK ever did while in office, as the US President. It adds another layer to the already existing farfetchedness of the film.
The film, of course, belongs to Gerard Butler, who plays Mike Banning. Armed with his usual charm that is embellished by his accent, Butler makes the best use of his lines and the action he gets to have fun with, making sure that things remain almost always watchable. Rick Yune as the renegade mastermind behind the attacks just doesn’t make for a convincing-enough villain, for me.
The film has been given a grim feel and it never stands out visually, maintaining an all-too-familiar look throughout. Strangely enough, some of the VFX in the film was quite bad; something you don’t expect in a film like this. The action set pieces have been executed reasonably, but nothing in the film seems like you haven’t seen it before, which as I’ve repeated often, is one of the big problems in the film.
As it brisk-walks to a climax (that can’t shake of a Mr. India déjà vu), Olympus Has Fallen is the kind of no-brainer film that is some measure of fun while it lasts, without ever truly impressing you. So if, like me, you get the feeling more than once that you’re watching King Leonidas attempt to save Harvey Dent from Zao, the sidekick henchman in Die Another Day, then we must meet up for a high-five.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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