‘Olympus Has Fallen:’ I Don’t Know What I Was Expecting

I don’t know what I was expecting. Do not mistake Olympus Has Fallen for a “political” movie. It is not a “political thriller” or a “political action movie.” It may take place in and around the White House and the Pentagon, and the characters may all be politicians, Secret Service agents, and military personnel, but Olympus Has Fallen is a one hundred percent straight up action flick that happens to happen in Washington, D.C. If you go into this movie with any sort of expectation that there is a political statement the filmmaker is trying to make, or a political issue that will be explored, you will be sorely disappointed. If you sidle up to Olympus Has Fallen with a large popcorn and a hankering to see a whole bunch of explosions, you will probably have a grand old time. It is kind of a fun one on that level.

I don’t know what I was expecting. The movie begins with a terrible accident that seems quite significant. In a snowstorm, the car transporting President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) skids off a bridge, and Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is able to save the big guy, but not the First Lady (Ashley Judd, who, in the five minutes she was alive, makes me wish she could be a real First Lady someday). You think that this event will be important. It is not. Its only function is to establish Mike Banning’s sense of failure and regret, so that when ten minutes in movie time later, the White House is compromised by a really organized group of Korean terrorists, he has something to make up for.

I don’t know what I was expecting. If Gerard Butler is in a movie, that movie is about Gerard Butler. Even if the movie also has Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett and Melissa Leo (who ALWAYS makes EVERYTHING about her. Ugh. I don’t like her. Can you tell?). The car accident is about setting up Gerard Butler’s only character trait, besides badassiness, and nothing more. The attack on the United States of America, the full-blown takeover of the White House, only exists for Gerard Butler to single-handedly John McClane his way through a bunch of terrorists. There is no politics. There is no point. And once you realize that, you can have an okay time watching an action film punctured with about as many plot holes as bullet holes. It just bothered me that Banning hadn’t worked in the White House for 18 months, and he still knew all the passwords to things because they definitely didn’t change them. Come on.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but Aaron Eckhart is really handsome I mean plays a great President. He is alternatively scared and steadfast, giving a solid performance in a movie in which the end game is clearly not great acting.  Butler is himself, as in, the sometimes snarky, not quite convincingly American tough guy with a heart of gold and fists of steel and also a lot of guns. Melissa Leo and Dylan McDermott should start a comedy duo and have a show called Just the Worst because that is what they are, Melissa Leo in everything, Dylan McDermott in most things. I am convinced Morgan Freeman showed up to set for like, two days, did one take of all his lines, then booked it out of there. That’s what it seemed like, and that’s what he deserves. He’s Morgan Fucking Freeman. Angela Bassett is awesome, but wasn’t allowed to do much.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I should have expected the most shots of American flags waving in the span of two hours that I have ever seen ever, fluttering aimlessly in the most cliché fashion, as if to say, “Hey there, it’s the Flag. I know you have seen me do this literally a million times before in movies. It has to be getting old. I am just here because we have to pretend this movie is like, ‘Go America! Woo!’ Get past this silliness and I will get you back to Gerard and his ass-kicking ways.” The flag got it. The flag knew what we, as audience members, didn’t need to see, which was a half-assed attempt at coloring the movie with a patriotic hue.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but Antoine Fuqua made this. He also made Training Day, which is amazing, and he also made Shooter, which I haven’t seen, but my brother thinks it’s the best movie ever made, so it’s probably terrible. On the scale from Training Day to Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard. That sentence makes no sense, but basically what I want to say is that it’s a pretty solid action flick with a plot that is very much like Die Hard. But it probably will not have the same “classic” status because, you know, Die Hard already exists.

So, I don’t know what I was expecting. But if I can tell you not to expect too much, you might find Olympus Has Fallen is…aight.

Grade: B-

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