Imagine an unintentionally funny 90’s era Die Hard video game, where John McLaine is the head of security for the President of the United States of America and also the last man in the White House to stand against a terrorist threat and hostage situation. Olympus Has fallen is exactly that movie, flaunting its badge of stupidity like the Medal of Honor, starring Gerard Butler as a beefier, more athletic, Kung Fu Karate McLaine.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who made Training Day years ago, Olympus Has Fallen is a large serving of guilty pleasure for action fans looking for brainless escapist fun. The plot is a bit similar to Red Dawn and the recent news of the handsome Kim Jong Un threatening to vanquish the US and take over South Korea seems like an elaborate marketing campaign for this film. Fuqua presents a very ‘realistic’ portrayal of how the White House, one of the most secure locations in America could easily be taken over by Dr. Evil from Austin Powers and be used as a hub to control the entire world. Here we have villainous North Koreans who somehow steal an AC-130 gunship, a plane the size of a football field from the US army, then walk surreptitiously into the White House with guns, then kidnap the President and gain access to every single nuclear weapon in the country. A badass bit of maneuvering, though not successful thanks to the one and only Mike Banning (Butler) who loves his country as much as his gun, and cares more for his President than for his wife.
As the terror threat rages on, bodies fly everywhere, and the villains torture the POTUS to extract information, Banning sweeps quietly through the White House walls, punching North Koreans to death and picking up their weapons like in an FPS game. The President is played by Aaron Eckhart who exudes a ridiculous amount of sincerity and commitment in a role set in a boiling lava of cheese and schlocky clichés. He even gets to do some boxing with his head of security and when clipped on the face asks his sparring partner not to hit the President.
Director Fuqua throws in more offensive, ludicrous B-movie material than you can imagine – from nuclear launch codes to loud blaring patriotic music to unexplained double crossing. In one scene our hero is seen punching in keys to abort a catastrophic nuclear meltdown while experts from the Crisis Room recite the codes, and when he asks what ‘hashtag’ is, the secretary of the state triumphantly decodes it for him by shouting ‘SHIFT 3’. Later, a woman who is beaten, kicked, slapped and tied up asks the President how her hair looks. After a point even the filmmakers give up and proceed to directly rip off Die Hard – in one of the funniest scene of the film a double agent who is in cahoots with the enemy instead of killing Banning, shares a cigarette with him like Hans Gruber, and then gets his ass handed to him after exposing himself.
(First published in MiD Day)