All overdramatic images courtesy of the official Facebook page!
The main thing you need to know about Olympus Has Fallen is that it is a hard R-rated movie. And I mean hard. They warm you up with a fistful of “fucks” in the opening sequence, and before long everyone onscreen is being shot up into gushing clouds of blood-red Jackson Pollock stains, while more intimate moments feature knives going into brains the way we’ve become accustomed to seeing on The Walking Dead; this time with non-zombiefied people, only about half of whom deserve their fates.
The other thing you need to know is that if you’re so inclined, it’s possible to be very, very offended by this movie. It takes so many cheap shots that if it were an athlete, it would be banned from all sporting events. I’m not just talking about swearing and violence raising an eyebrow, as I trust anybody reading this review on this site is not going to get all Michael Medved on my ass. No, I’m talking about a movie that revels in shooting women and dogs in the head and rubbing the memories of 9/11 in your face, as well as images of wounded and amputated soldiers, current global fears and all-inclusive inscrutable Asian mastermind stereotypes just to get you so riled up you’ll cheer when evil scum get their asses handed to them eventually. Tragedy plus time may not equal comedy, exactly, in this instance, but it does equal a nonchalance and a form of cheap catharsis. That its primary audience is likely teenage boys who’ll have no firsthand memories of the year 2001 needs to be understood; likewise, Vietnam vets may have felt that Rambo: First Blood Part II trivialized PTSD, but it’s not like young audiences at the time were too concerned, as they never lived that war. Welcome to feeling old.
You don’t say…
I can’t really tell anybody what they should and should not be offended by, but there are bigger fish to fry than a Die Hard ripoff that has no deeper goal than going over the top as much as it can. I can understand not enjoying this film. I can also tell you that I did.
I’m not kidding about the Die Hard ripoff part – there are very specific beats based on the original Bruce Willis man-in-a-building classic that I won’t spoil here, but I also won’t need to when you see them, because you’ll know.
Things begin with a fistfight between two friends, although it soon becomes clear that one of the men is the president of the United States, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and the other is his good pal and Secret Service bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler)…and they’re having a boxing match on their down time. I can’t see that ever happening for a multitude of reasons, but I suspect it’s director Antoine Fuqua’s way of indicating that checking your brain at the door would be a good idea.
We learn some shorthand that will be important later – Banning’s chummy with the First Kid, Connor (Finley Jacobsen) and teaches him uber-situational awareness about how to look for trouble and where all the security cameras and such are in the White House. Plus Asher loves his wife (Ashley Judd) very much, and another Secret Service dude named Forbes (Dylan McDermott) is about to retire. It’s a cold winter’s night, yet the presidential motorcade must head to a fundraiser anyway, pulling out of Camp David en masse, which we know is Camp David because Fuqua takes the time to linger on a giant sign that says so.
An accident happens – it’s not immediately visually clear how – and Banning is able to save the president’s life, but not, shall we say, with optimum results all around. So when we flip to 18 months later (indicated primarily by young Connor ditching the glasses and the wig he was wearing prior), Banning is no longer part of the president’s personal protectors – not that he ever should have been, as a best friend who likes punching the guy in the face, but y’know, whatever. We also learn that he told the Speaker of the House to go fuck himself, which is particularly bad due to the fact that said speaker is Morgan Freeman.
And then North Koreans take over the White House. Yes, North Koreans. They are all master-ninjas in this alternate reality, led by Rick Yune’s master-terrorist Kang. Some of them are also suicide bombers, because the screenwriters don’t give a shit about which of America’s enemies are which. And their planes have secret pop-out weapons like MASK vehicles, which catch the U.S. air force totally by surprise. Really, they’re more like VENOM than Kim Jong-Un’s actual army.
After a massive firefight, and a tasteless bit in which the enemy plane crashes into the Washington Monument, only to have it collapse moments later like the WTC in miniature, Banning enters the White House through one of the holes blown into its side, and with the president sealed into the secret underground bunker with Kang, Banning is now the only inside man. In a blatant attempt to one-up John McClane, his black friend on the outside in this instance is the acting president, who is also…you guessed it…Morgan Freeman (the audience in my screening cheered maybe the loudest when he got sworn in).
Further cementing the fact that this is an alternate reality, we get MSNBC pundit Lawrence O’Donnell playing the news anchor on a network called KGDV, and at least one of the North Koreans has long hair and a beard. The CG flag the baddies toss of the roof flutters fakely on its way down, but who cares. Are you here to see Gerard Butler smash a man’s head in with a bust of Lincoln and say things like, “Why don’t you and I play a game of fuck off. You first!” or aren’t you?
You don’t have to answer that question in a public forum.