Mania Review: Olympus Has Fallen -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: C

14 Comments | Add


Rate & Share:


Related Links:



  • Starring: Gerard Butler, Rick Yune, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman
  • Written by: Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt
  • Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
  • Studio: Film District
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Olympus Has Fallen

Die Hard called, it wants its shtick back.

By Rob Vaux     March 22, 2013

 Your ability to enjoy Olympus Has Fallen stands in direct relation to the amount of scenario-based poppycock you can tolerate. On a nuts-and-bolts level, the film works just fine. A bit derivative, perhaps, but one can’t deny the innate appeal of watching Gerard Butler fillet a man with a butterfly knife. (He’s awfully good at it.) Director Antoine Fuqua invests his mayhem with appreciable amounts of grim style. He helped win Denzel Washington an Oscar, after all, and as long as he sticks to the point-and-click basics of action-movie thrillers, Olympus Has Fallen stands on solid ground.

On the other hand, when the whys and wherefores start to crop up, you’re on your own. They start early on, as North Korean terrorists launch a surprise attack on the White House and succeed in taking it over. Led by giant Slab o’ Man Mr. Kang (Rick Yune), they soon have the President (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff locked down in the nuclear bunker, and immediately begin issuing wild demands. For the most part, we give in to them… or we would were it not for lone Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) who alone has breached their phalanx of hastily piled-together garbage trucks out front, and who might succeed where the amassed might of the U.S. military has failed.

Smells a little Die Hard-y, right? Olympus Has Fallen follows that playbook a tad too closely for comfort, as similar beats and plot twists arrive with distressing punctuality. From the supposed escapee who actually belongs to the terrorists to the ill-conceived assault from stuffy establishment types who clearly don’t know who they’re dealing with, the whiff of McClaneism follows this film around like a bad rash. 

On top of that, in order to make the narrative work, you need to accept that:

  1. The South Korean government is so riddled with moles as to make its independence from the north a moot point. 
  2. The U.S. Secret Service would deviate from protocol one iota in the midst of an apocalyptic crisis… and that the terrorists would not only anticipate that deviation, but could count on the three people they need being exactly where they want them to when all hell is breaking loose
  3. A post 9/11 U.S. government would view the President’s life as more important than our military commitment to South Korea, and promptly roll over to the yo-yos who started it rather than get busy turning Pyongyang into the world’s largest parking lot.
  4. We’ve got, like, six helicopters full of guys to take the White House back and once they go down, there’s really no point doing anything else. Someone might get hurt.

All of these questions float delicately in our minds as the one guy who can do something (Butler), cheerfully butchers his way through the sinister yellow men who hate our freedom on his way to the bunker. (I say that, and yet the film's political subtext is frankly irrelevant; nobody’s here for a treatise on international relations and those who are need to loosen the hell up.) Fuqua defuses more than his share of the logic holes with his tight camerawork and willingness to get to the bloody point. The face-palm equations remain in the back of the mind, but it’s hard to care too much about them when the bullets start flying. As a collection of sound and movement, Olympus Has Fallen works like a charm, aided by Fuqua’s commitment to the hard-R and a grittiness you don’t see much of anymore. With guys like Yune, Eckhart and Morgan Freeman in the house, the questions grow even smaller, and you may be able to convince yourself that they don’t matter at all.

At the same time, however, the film’s grit and realism throw sand in the bigger picture, which ultimately derails the whole thing. Why try to convince us what an attack on the White House would really look like if the premise for the attack is so laughably flimsy? What’s the point of breaking down Secret Service protocol if you’re just going to throw it against an evil plan straight out of Roger Moore’s James Bond? We’re constantly pulled between embracing Fuqua’s terrific technique and giggling uproariously at his larger framework. Within that crucible, everyone has a breaking point, even action movie fans. The only question becomes when you reach it. Mine came at the very end, when the final twist appeared and I suddenly got a grade-A flashback to Team America. Yours may come earlier… or you may be able to cheerfully ignore them all and continue to enjoy yourself right on through the closing credits. If you can, more power to you; the film will reward such efforts and perhaps even merit a second viewing somewhere along the line. For the rest of you, buyer beware: this bit of popcorn carries too much bullshit to swallow with ease. 


Showing items 1 - 10 of 14
1 2 >  >>  
spiderhero 3/22/2013 5:42:21 AM

WHen I started watching the trailer, it seemed pretty cool. Ashley Judd dies (a plus), and a bunch of quality actors with some grade A action. Then, as the trailer progressed, it revealed the entire plot & I felt like I was watching a trailer for a Die Hard reboot.

I'll just Redbox it in a few months & save my cash for repeated viewings of Iron Man 3.

redvector 3/22/2013 7:06:37 AM

 Vaux pretty much mirrors every other review I've seen for this. In fact is more generous than some I've seen.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 3/22/2013 9:41:18 AM

What? Ashley Judd is awesome.  I wonder if you say that because you're a Republican.

momitchell7 3/22/2013 10:39:45 AM

To review is cool, but do you have to start giving away plot secrets like the terrorist disguised as an escapee? WTF?


RaithManan 3/22/2013 10:51:30 AM

I still intend to see it.  And it has gotten reasonably favorable reviews despite seeming like Die Hard in the oval office which is pretty much what most are calling it. 

spiderhero 3/22/2013 11:51:41 AM

I know nothing of Judd's political leanings, I just don't like her.

monkeyfoot 3/22/2013 1:33:27 PM

That's Senator Judd to you!

InnerSanctum 3/22/2013 3:47:46 PM

 I haven't read the review yet, but the trailer made me think I was watching Die Hard 6.  

Martin Freeman slumming.  

InnerSanctum 3/22/2013 3:48:19 PM

 Wait a sec, this is the same plot as season 8 of 24.  

InnerSanctum 3/22/2013 3:50:00 PM

 That's Morgan.  

1 2 >  >>  


You must be logged in to leave a comment. Please click here to login.