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Olympus Has Fallen - Review

Olympus Has Fallen

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

DIE Hard in The White House ought to have been a fun premise. But sadly there’s so much about Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen that just doesn’t work.

The villain of choice, for instance, feels a little too glib given the heightened real life tensions between the US and North Korea, while conversely some of the more gung-ho patriotic leanings could have benefited from a more Team America-style “f**k yeah” attitude than currently exists.

The tone also feels all over the place with some of the more harder hitting elements co-existing uncomfortably with the more traditional pre and post-death quips.

And if that weren’t enough, some of the effects are just so blatant, especially as the movie employs ever more outrageous set pieces to ramp up the spectacle.

Violent escapism it may pretend to be but by borrowing from the best (and that’s John McTiernan’s original Die Hard as well as elements of Air Force One) it also gets judged by those lofty standards. And in that regard, Olympus falls hard.

The plot is pure hokum. Disgraced former Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is given a shot at redemption when North Korean terrorists take over The White House and hold the US President hostage.

Embedding himself inside as the obligatory ‘fly in the ointment’, Banning bludgeons, maims and shoots his way through an army of adversaries while the world and various US officials (led by Morgan Freeman) wait with baited breath.

To be fair, there is an element to Fuqua’s film that is so preposterous that it’s actually quite fun. And indeed the whole film remains watchable in spite of its many flaws.

But if the aforementioned reasons weren’t already enough to sound a note of caution among those expecting high octane action cinema at its best, then consider some of its other failings too.

Butler, for all his game athleticism, lacks the charisma or Everyman relatability of Bruce Willis’s John McClane (or even his vulnerability), while Rick Yune’s villain is no match for Alan Rickman in terms of menace, invention or ability to leave a lasting impression.

Several of Die Hard‘s key moments (the premature helicopter attack by Feds, a key villain posing as an ally for a tense exchange, etc) are replicated in dumbed down versions. And the claustrophobic tension and uncertainty surrounding characters and situations is replaced by a certain inevitability that this film has nothing to really surprise once it has played its trump card (the initial all-out assault on The White House).

Overall, the best that can be said about Olympus Has Fallen is that it’s better than the most recent McClane instalment A Good Day To Die Hard. But that’s faint praise.

Audiences may just be better off waiting to see if Roland Emmerich’s forthcoming White House Down (yes, another variation) can avoid the same pitfalls and deliver more of a yippee-ki-yay to the genre.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 120mins
UK Release Date: April 17, 2013