On a fateful winter night, capable Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) pulled the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart) from a car teetering on a bridge, but at the expense of the First Lady (Ashley Judd). Everyone knows Mike did the right thing, but he’s taken off the Secret Service and given a desk job in Washington D.C. with a window overlooking the White House. One day, Mike is tapping away at his computer when a hostile airplane begins shooting down civilians in the capitol.
Mike races outside to help, but finds himself in the middle of a North Korean terrorist invasion of the White House. Somehow, Mike makes it inside alive, but by that time the White House (code name Olympus) has fallen. The President and several other important politicians are being held hostage in the “safe” bunker below. The terrorists demand that America withdraw from the DMZ in Korea, or they will kill the President. Not on Mike’s watch. He’s an Ameri-CAN, not an Ameri-CAN’T. He takes a proverbial shot of testosterone and shoots his way to the bunker to save the President and other hostages.
I went to this movie as a throwaway bit of entertainment, entering with no expectations. In the case of Olympus Has Fallen, this strategy allowed me to enjoy the movie to its fullest. By no means perfect (pretty far from, in fact), it exuded more “Die Hard-iness” than A Good Day to Die Hard did (and yes, I’m still sore about how royally that film was botched). Olympus reminded me of the simple, corny 80s movies, complete with bad guy prone to cartoonish behavior, who is shown at slanted camera angles that serve to amplify his evilness.
Although the terrorists take over the White House with relative ease, they were somewhat lacking in the torture department. For an R-rated film that didn’t skimp on the blood and gore, I thought the “torture” was mild at best and laughable at worst. Their way of “torturing” secret nuclear launch codes out of some of their hostages is lightly pressing a knife to a neck or kicking someone a few times before the codes were theirs for the taking.
And even though getting this information was pertinent to their ultimate goal, the terrorists wait several hours in between trying to get the information from their captives, giving Gerard Butler plenty of time to come to the rescue. This is just shoddy terrorism and poor time management on their part.
Olympus exudes more patriotism than the Fourth of July and apple pie combined, in an utterly ridiculous, in-your-face kind of way. There is no shortage of American flags being symbolically interacted with (thrown, burned, emblazoned behind the hero, etc.) while the camera lingers. In addition to excessive “patriotism shots,” the occasional serious imagery (such as the Washington Monument hit by a terrorist plane and collapsing onto itself, uncomfortably bringing up memories of 9/11) felt inappropriately at odds with the lighthearted everyday-man, “shoot-em-up” premise. Olympus Has Fallen borders on the ridiculous and unintentionally humorous at all times. It’s a dumb film, but for me, it was the fun kind of dumb. All I did was suspend my disbelief and I had a good time. Logic can come later.