Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Finley Jacobsen
Watch Olympus Has Fallen online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
“Why don’t you and I play a game of fuck off? You go first.”
That’s Mike Banning (Butler) talking to the terrorists who have just taken over the White House. He might as well be talking to your brain. One thing is clear: you won’t be needing that for this film. This is a movie where one man can take on a whole North Korean army. Where people get their heads bashed in by busts of Abraham Lincoln. Where you can tell who the main bad guy is because he wears glasses like a good guy – and then takes them off dramatically to proof he doesn’t need them after all.
“This is Kang (Yune). He’s never been photographed before,” says one security official, who identifies him after looking at his picture. It’s hard to know whether Antoine Fuqua’s film knows it’s dumb – but it certainly is. Plot points and character beats are signposted with hints the size of Mount Rushmore, while even our flawed anti-hero (a washed up secret agent who let the President’s wife die) comes out gleaming like a new Hotpoint bathroom.
Despite its spit-shine jingoism, though, Olympus Has Fallen has a surprising amount of grit in its white, red and blue. People’s necks are broken and blood is shed with a remorseless efficiency: a strangely cathartic explosion of Uncle Sam propaganda as America beats The Foreigners once again. (You wonder if the country intentionally produces a movie like this every few years, just to keep patriotism alive.)
Throughout it all, Butler’s grizzled charisma makes for an engaging lead man, even if his main attempts at heroic charm are stolen straight out the John McClane Playbook. Swearing and tossing insults over a walkie-talkie, Banning tries to do a Bruce Willis but is undermined by the script’s dubious quality and unintentional hilarity. Fuqua’s pacing is solid enough, though, creating a functional and stupidly fun action flick.
Olympus Has Fallen styles itself as the new Die Hard. It’s closer to Air Force One, but on the ground instead of a plane. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you – and America – needs.