James Smith’s quick-fire insight into the world of movies.
Here he checks out Olympus Has Fallen, a macho action epic starring Gerard Butler with more than a hint of Die Hard thrown in.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
The timing of this movie with its portrayal of North Korean aggression must be a coo for the producers, since it coincides with the rumblings of North Korean leader-in-nappies, Kim Jong-un. The recent attempts of the USA to dissuade Jong-un from throwing his toys (or more importantly, his nukes) out of his pram are almost akin to a slightly bonkers Hollywood movie using WMDs to weave a daft plot around. And that’s exactly what we have with Olympus Has Fallen, a film displaying some fine action, but not high in the intelligence stakes.
Considering current events, this film is no public relations exercise. If Barack Obama invites Kim Jong-Un to America for a conciliatory chat, the President needs to pray it doesn’t appear on the movie channel in Jong-Un’s room. Reason being? Well, the attacking force of North Koreans are portrayed as brainwashed lemmings, happy to blitz anything or become cannon fodder in their quest to overrun the White House and seize control of America’s nukes. If you listen to the dialogue carefully in this film (not essential or easy above the gunfire), you’ll learn that the North Korean attackers are on a mission of their own and therefore not something the real state would condone. A clear attempt by the writers at a ‘get out’ not to cause offence, but considering the overall depiction of the Koreans, a lame one.
Led by a brutal leader, Kang (Rick Yune), the attacking force begins its assault using a Hercules C-130 to soften up the surrounding area, before the lemmings (disguised as tourists) charge in with a range of high powered weaponry to oppose the FBI’s handguns that have the effectiveness of peashooters. The attackers’ aim is to capture the President with a healthy contingent of his sidekicks and hold them hostage in the White House bunker. It all goes well for the invading force until a rebel agent in the form of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a former presidential guard, finds himself on the loose in America’s finest hijacked home... and he’s real mad.
The premise of ‘man trapped inside building overrun with crazed terrorists’ will resonate with Die Hard fans, and certainly ‘Olympus’ draws close parallels, albeit with heightened violence and a worrying barrage of senseless executions. Best then to switch any conscience firmly off and marvel at the action.
The fight scenes, cinematography, and pace of the film are well thought out and there’s enough copter action and explosive mayhem to keep most fans of the genre happy. Some of the CGI, however, sits uncomfortably with the live action, particularly during the aerial sequences. This is a noticeable trend on many modern features; a tendency to mix computer game-style images with live footage. It sometimes slips into an odd dimension, almost as if we’re back in yesteryear with dodgy backdrops and curious day-for-night shots.
Any such deficiencies are countered by a strong cast and some excellent work by Butler’s ‘hunk on a mission’ charm and direct style. Despite this, some of the scenes - even in the context of the nutty script - are a bit hard to swallow. Butler’s character, Banning, drops in on conversations to all parties seemingly at will with his mobile phone thingy - the enemy, the Defence Department, even his wife at work - in between bouts of being shot at and torturing Koreans. In another technological quirk, the national security computers appear to be up the creek, since their early facial recognition scan failed to reveal Kang, who we later learn is one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. The script might not win any awards, and there’s as much cheese flying around as bullets, but it’s a fun caper and will certainly satisfy those who like their heroes well tooled up.
Review by @jsmithwriter