Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
You may like this if you like: White House Down (Roland Emmerich, 2013), Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988), Under Siege (Andrew Davis, 1992)
After a tragic accident in which he was unable to save the first lady (Ashley Judd), former Presidential Guard Mike Banning (Butler) now works behind a desk at the treasury department. During an apparent negotiation with a South Korean official, a huge army of nasty North Koreans disguised as tourists launch a full scale attack on the White House (Code name: ‘Olympus’ apparently). These naughty people then take the President (Eckhart) and members of his Government hostage. As the US officials in the room are the three individuals that each knows a code that together access a nuclear weapon that will wipe out the entire country. Banning is the one man left, and using his skills and knowledge, he must essentially (with the help of Morgan Freeman’s Government official) become a one man army and take down the terrorists and avert a global nuclear disaster.
So, ‘Die Hard in the White House’ apparently, as every piece of promotional marketing will tell you about Olympus Has Fallen. Well, it certainly unashamedly wants to be, but lacks the humour, character development or general enjoyment of John McClane’s first outing. Instead Antoine Fuqua has gone for 110 minutes of loud and dumb action that verges on parody. Indeed if you was to watch White House Down thinking it was a Team America-esque comedy than that may just about make what is otherwise an extremely dull, clichéd and borderline embarrassing ‘action drama’ just about bearable to watch.
Every shot of the White House is accompanied by outrageously overbearing strings and drums in Trevor Morris’ extremely OTT score and the slow motion shot of the USA flag on fire as it is thrown from the roof while Morris’ ‘dramatic’ strings are cranked up to eleven has to be laughed at.
Gerard Butler gives a typically desperate, energetic and clunky performance with his American accent frequently returning to the lochs. Naturally, he does look the part, and though still better than anything Willis has done for ages; he lacks the charisma, likeability and any decent dialogue to be anything other than a cardboard cut out action figure, and certainly not the original John McClane. When we see him out run a helicopter or when he is the only man left standing in a huge mass slaughter outside the White House, we know if he is around then those nasty little evil North Koreans are seriously up against it.
The story itself, as well as being way too long, is incredibly lazy to the point of hilarity: All the right things happen to make our protagonist’s path as easy as possible. What really took the biscuit for me was a character that had betrayed his country to side with the North Koreans, but after a few choice words from Gerard, while he lay dying he not only spilt the beans but told his superiors that Gerard is dead and they can relax. We all like character arcs, but really?!?
This is of course an action film first and foremost, and that is fine, but despite the $70 million budget the action and CGI look particularly dodgy. In a particular scene when guns come out of the White House and there is some force field involved things almost turn into a cartoon. When the ground assault begins on the White House it is a loud and brutal 20 minutes, but with such mass slaughter on generic characters, it is hard to care, but yet easy to somehow laugh.
As the predictable and clichéd narrative plods along with an extremely clunky and even more clichéd script, anyone would be forgiven for nodding off if it were not for the occasional bangs, thuds and trademark Gerard Butler shouting. We all know how everything will end, and the fact it takes so long to get there is testing the patience of even the most devoted saint.
As is often the case, films come out in twos: and Roland Emmerich’s White House Down is on the horizon here in the UK. Well, with clichéd characters, clunky dialogue and narrative developments verging on parody Olympus Has Fallen already has the Emmerich trademarks covered, so what the hell will the man himself do? I am genuinely scared!
Olympus has Fallen is a film so incredibly daft that it verges outrageously into the area of parody. Take it seriously and you will be as bored as hell, take it as a joke and you will still be bored, but at least have a laugh. If you do not laugh, you will probably cry, fall asleep or fall asleep crying.