“Olympus Has Fallen” falls short

By Jay Krieger

Gerard Butler as Mike Banning

I had relatively low expectations for “Olympus Has Fallen” as the premise seemed to be little more than a bravado infused opportunity for director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Tears of The Sun”) to blow audiences away with grandioso set pieces and nonstop explosions. Despite a prominent cast of A-list actors, and a ballpark budget of $80 million dollars, “Olympus Has Fallen” manages to amount to little more than a poorly written, unoriginal, and, with the exception of one extensive scene, poorly choreographed film.

Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a recently demoted secret service agent who’s longing for his old job back, and gets his opportunity when the White House is overtaken by North Korean terrorists the same day the president is meeting with South Korean prime minister. Thus, it’s left to Mike to infiltrate the White House and attempt to rescue the president and several cabinet members. If the story sounds generic and overly simplistic, that’s because it is. Most that will go to see “Olympus Has Fallen” are doing so for a “hoorah” military vibe – that is present throughout- and constant explosions featured in the trailer. I get that. But, when the film, which drags on for 2 hours, is supposed to be action focused, it’s inexcusable for only one scene to provide an adequate level of entertainment.

Olympus Has Fallen movie poster
Olympus Has Fallen movie poster

The scene in question, that justifies the films exorbitant budget, is the initial assault of the White House, which features an AC-130 gunship crashing through the Washington Monument, raining debris down upon American citizens. This scene lingers on for longer than it should, but hey, at least audience can tell what the hell is happening on screen. In all the other action  scenes that feature Butler performing any sort of martial arts or close quarter fighting, the scenes are poorly lit and the camera cuts far too frequently to see what is actually unfolding on screen. When the main draw of your film is to provide enjoyable fight and shootout scenes, and you don’t deliver, the dialogue and actors better deliver.

And they don’t. Even with superstars such as Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart, they aren’t able to bring any life to the mundane and overly formulaic script. The film plays out exactly as you’d expect, in every single way – typically it isn’t good if I can guess who the double crosser is 15 minutes into the film. I couldn’t even enjoy “Olympus Has Fallen” as a mindless action film because the action wasn’t enjoyable enough to alleviate me from the poor dialogue. This is supposed to be an action film, so they have to have given Butler some smooth and funny one liners, right? Wrong. His one liners amount to little more than threatening to kill the antagonist and saying fuck, a lot. Was I expecting the story and dialogue to blow me away? No. But any sort of competent dialogue between characters would have been nice.

When a film takes $80 million dollars and is only able to make one semi entertaining action packed scene, you, as a director, have failed. Failed in not only creating a film that has no redeeming quality to it, but failed as the film doesn’t even deliver mindless entertainment. “Olympus Has Fallen” provides no redeeming quality, and I’d be hard-pressed to even recommend it as a rental.