It is a sad world we live in where a film such as ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ manages to be a better Die Hard movie than the crappy fifth entry that was dumped into theaters a month prior. If a prediction were to be made as to how this film was pitched to the studio heads at Millennium Films, it probably went along the lines of “Imagine Die Hard…in the White House”. It is a gimmicky premise for sure and there have been many “Die Hard” imitators over the years, and some have been good (Speed, Con Air, The Rock). Thankfully, the latest from ‘Training Day’ director Antoine Fuqua also manages to be a solid action picture in it’s own right and the perfect popcorn flick for action junkies everywhere.
The plot revolves around Secret Service agent Mike Banning who is the head of the Presidential Detail until one fateful night when he fails to save President Benjamin Asher’s wife in a deadly limo crash. Skip to eighteen months later, Banning has been regulated to a boring desk job at the Treasury Department. One day, during a meeting between Asher and the South Korean Prime Minister, Korean-led guerilla forces launch a bold air and ground assault that results in the White House getting captured. Terrorist mastermind Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) now holds the President of the United States hostage and it is up to Banning (who has become trapped in the White House during the assault) to take them all down.
Gerard Butler plays Banning and this film is a great return to action-hero form after his stint in terrible rom-coms. A huge strength of the film is the strong central performance of Butler because he manages to successfully sell the character of Banning as an appealing mix of Liam Neeson-style ruthlessness and the humor of Die Hard’s John Mcclane. While the whole concept of the White House being taken over would have seemed wildly implausible even in a pre-911 world, the film approaches it’s premise with a straight face. One factor that helps this film along is an over-qualified supporting cast that brings more to the table than required. Aaron Eckhart brings much needed humanity in playing the President and the presence of Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House is always welcome. However, suspension of disbelief can always be earned if the promises of a film’s concept are served, and great action is what this flick delivers. Despite some dodgy CGI, the White House assault sequence is very intensely directed and the tension only rises as Banning relies on his wits to defeat the terrorists one by one. Plus the gun and fistfight scenes are awesomely choreographed and well staged.
This film is surely not going to win any Oscars, and it is not a great film but it is great entertainment. There may be some stiff dialogue, especially in the beginning, but stick with it and by the end, audiences will surely be enthralled.