While I do like deep thought-provoking films that examine both life and the human condition as much as the next film geek, but sometimes you just want to sit back, relax, turn off your brain and watch a film that has a lot of action, fighting, shooting, one-liners and just things blowing up (hey, I enjoy the simple things in life). Action films are definitely one of my favourite genres in film (you read my reviews of THE EXPENDABLES 2 and THE LAST STAND to see how much of a fan I am) and I always look forward to any of them that come my way, particularly if it is has some really good buzz behind it. So I was definitely looking forward to the new action film OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, since I heard great word about it from everyone I know. Now having seen the film myself, I’m sad to report that don’t think it wasn’t as good as everyone has made it out to be.
The film tells the story of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a former secret service agent of U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who finds it hard to cope with the guilt of not being able the save Asher’s wife Margaret (Ashley Judd) in a tragic car accident 18 months earlier. He gives up his job as an agent and decides to take a desk job at the Treasury Department. However things change when one day while President Asher is having a meeting with the South Korean Prime Minister, the White House becomes under attack and is taken over by group of dangerous terrorists led by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), who holds the President Asher and his staff hostage. Banning, who while trying to help out some secret agents during the attack, gets trapped inside the White House. Knowing that he is the only one that can stop Kang and his men, Banning decides to go on a rescue mission to save the President and his staff.
I must admit that OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN has all the right ingredients that I would want in an fun dumb action film, especially an old school one like this one is: a great cast (the actors that they assembled for this film is just insane), a cool premise (a DIE HARD-esque film set the White House? I’m there!) and a solid director at the helm with Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY, SHOOTER, THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS). Unfortunately the combination of these elements weren’t able to make the film more than just a watchable but average film. Which is a shame because type of film was definitely right up my alley but some reason it just didn’t click with me as other recent action films I’ve seen have. After seriously thinking about it, I figured out some reasons why that is. First off I thought that it took it way too seriously than a film like this should have. While I don’t mind action films being serious but I felt that it was a bit too overdone here. Every time a big dramatic scene happened, it came both rather cheesy and unintentionally funny. It probably would have been better if the filmmakers didn’t take the film itself too seriously and had a bit more fun with the premise.
The other reason why this film didn’t work for me was that it was absolutely clichéd to the max. Every clichéd that you have seen in every action film ever made is in this film. Usually that wouldn’t bother me but it came off so contrived and predictable here. There wasn’t anything new, interesting or unique about it that would have made stood out of the genre (at lest with the action films I mentioned before, THE EXPENDABLES 2 and THE LAST STAND, they had something about them that made stand out in the crowd). Plus there were other aspects that didn’t work: I felt that some members of the cast were underused (Aussie actress Radha Mitchell was criminally wasted), I didn’t find the villains that intimidating at all (Rick Yune was fine as “Yang” but his character wasn’t that threatening), the cinematography was too dark (this has to be the most murky-looking film I’ve seen since ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM), the script could have used a few more re-writes (especially in the character development department) and the CGI was pretty bad.
Despite all those negatives, there are some things I did like about it. I thought that Gerard Butler did a great job in the role of “Mike Banning”. It was nice seeing him back in an action film role again and as well as giving a really good performance to boot (he had some pretty good one-liners as well). The supporting cast all did well with what they given but the ones that stood out for me were Aaron Eckhart who was pretty good as “President Asher”, Angela Bassett used her underrated talents quite well in her role as “Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs”, Mellissa Leo was great as “Secretary of Defence Ruth McMillan” (it could have easily have been a nothing role but Leo brings great elements to the character) and, of course, Morgan Freeman is great as always because he is… Well, Morgan Freeman. Plus the action scenes were well staged, particularly the attack on the White House scene (which was a really good action set piece by the way), Antoine Fuqua’s direction was solid and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there were some moments that I did have fun with.
Overall while OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is both watchable and it does have it’s fun moments but other than that, there just isn’t anything really special about it that makes it more just an pretty average action film. While I’m sure that a lot of you action film fans will love it and I wish I could say the same but it just didn’t really work for me. It’s definitely one of my biggest disappointments of the year so far.
Review written by Bede Jermyn