Director Antoine Fuqua’s follow-up to his gritty police drama, Brooklyn’s Finest is a rousing patriotic, no-holds barred action thriller that puts a new, yet predictable spin while simultaneously updating the Die Hard blueprint for a new generation in the jingoistic, Olympus Has Fallen.
The film follows the journey of a decorated Special Forces operative Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who nows heads the Secret Service Presidential Detail. After a tragic accident which causes the loss of the First Lady, he loses the President’s confidence and is demoted and assigned to desk duty at the Treasury Department. Banning finds himself at the right place at the right time when the White House (Secret Service Code: “Olympus”) is captured by a North Korean terrorist mastermind and the President is taken hostage. He manages to get himself trapped within the building that he knows like the back of hand, much to the chagrin of the terrorists. As the national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning’s inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President, and avert an even bigger nuclear disaster.
Where our adversaries used planes as weapons during 9/11 tragedy, Fuqua and his team of screenwriters, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt and John S. Green, incorporate some of those surprise elements into the daring, violent assault on the White House.
Much like John McClane in Die Hard, Banning has the physical tools and knowledge of the White House that makes him not only the perfect man for the job but also the only hope to divert a catastrophe. The problem with the story is that nearly every move is telegraphed, the filmmaker’s manipulate the audiences emotions and there is never any sense that Banning WON’T succeed, whether he needs to take down ten men or 100, it’s not a matter of if only when.
Butler boasts the physicality needed to make the character work while Fuqua provides the pro-American spirit that is sure to get audiences pumped up home but will cause much eye-rolling and consternation abroad. The decorated supporting cast does the best they can with the material including Rick Yune as the film’s villain, Kang. His constant ability to underestimate Banning mirrors Hans Gruber’s relationship with McClane in the earlier action classic. In addition, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman hit their marks, providing the adequate background but this film is all about Butler.
With another presidential thriller, White House Down coming in several months, it’s going to be very interesting to see if the national spirit will allow for a second film that show the destruction of the country’s priciest piece of real estate by foreign adversaries so soon. Fuqua, who has made a living with his action films, has found a leading actor to match his alpha male sensibilities – too bad he couldn’t give him a better script to work with. To paraphrase former Vikings’ coach Denny Green, Olympus Has Fallen is exactly what we thought it was!