Avid readers of this site are probably aware that I’m fond of movies the fit the Die Hard mold. I’ve covered them extensively and witnessed how a surprise hit gave birth to many rip-offs. Over the years they went from big budget movies starring the then hot action stars to low budget DTV-schlock featuring the likes of Vinnie Jones or even the late Anna-Nicole Smith. The last few years two Die Hard movies were released, but both of them had little resemblance to the original. The only thing we did get were two parodies: Paul Blart: Mall Cop and an episode of the Seth McFarlane TV-show: The Cleveland Show. 2013 however brings us not one, but two movies in the classic Die Hard vein with a big budget and all star cast containing Academy Award winners, both set in the White House. The Channing Tatum actioner “White House Down” we’ll be released later this year, but first there’s Olympus Has Fallen.
In the almost obligatory opening scene we witness how Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) saves the President (Eckhart) from a car wreck hanging over a bridge, but is unable to rescue the First Lady. One and a half year later the President has been reelected but since he Mike constantly reminds him off that tragic night he has given him a job at the Treasury department. Just having Mike be a part of the detail of the Vice President was probably not an option. So Mike mourns about his boring job but luckily for him some Korean militia are about to give him the opportunity to get in the good graces of the President as they take over the White House and turn several parts of Washington into a war zone.
Olympus Has Fallen is a mash-up of a couple of other Die Hard movies including the original from which it even lifts some scenes directly like Mike encountering an enemy who then poses as to being a good guy, having contact with the villain Kang through a Walkie Talkie and escaping from the roof when a helicopter is crashing down. Other scenes are lifted from movies like Under Siege; The military background of the character as well as the contact he has with high ranking officials in a war room. But as Picasso once stated: Good artist copy, great artist steal and the makers of Olympus Has Fallen turn out to be master criminals.
The makers went all John Hammond on this script and “spared no expense” to create a big loud R-rated action movie full of CG-filled scenes where several landmarks in Washington including the White House are being destroyed. There’s also plenty of star power as Gerard Butler returns from the world of romantic comedies to portray one man army Mike Banning; basically a character Steven Seagal usually portrays. Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett all portray high ranking officials and Ashley Judd has a cameo as the First Lady.
The result is a noisy action movie that is fun to watch and very entertaining, but also takes itself very seriously despite the preposterous plot. A lot of leading characters in other movies fitting the Die Hard mold always had time for a one-liner. Bruce Willis gave the world “Yippie-Ki-Yay MotherFucker” in the first Die Hard and many have followed in his footsteps. Gerard Butler plays it straight and is rather menacing in his approach, but he never delivers one snappy line even though the situations could have provided him with plenty, like when he knocks down an opponent with a bust of Lincoln.
Olympus Has Fallen isn’t a classic. It hinges too much on other movies and the way the Koreans take over the White House is spectacular but totally unrealistic. I can’t imagine that after 9-11 a hostile military airplane can even reach the US airspace without being intercepted by at least more than two fighter jets as shown in this movie. But when you suspend your disbelief it’s a pretty fun flick that has some great action scenes.