OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN Review

by     Posted 1 year, 33 days ago

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“It’s Die Hard in the White House” is the high-concept pitch for Olympus Has Fallen.  It’s a good pitch, but it’s only a pitch.  The movie doesn’t understand what makes Die Hard compelling beyond “a hero trapped and alone has to take out bad guys and save hostages”.  It’s about well-written characters and a confident tone, and Olympus Has Fallen has neither.  Director Antoine Fuqua may have his movie paced like a tight action flick, but it’s a confused picture in terms of mood and plot.  Furthermore, it misses the obvious aspect of giving us a hero worth rooting for and a villain worth rooting against.  Olympus Has Fallen sticks us in the crossfire and no one knows how to shoot.

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) was once the lead man on the detail of President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), but Banning was given a desk job when he couldn’t save Asher’s wife (Ashley Judd) from a fatal car accident.  Eighteen months later, a South Korean delegation has arrived in Washington to speak with the President about North Korea’s intent to breach the demilitarized zone.  This arrival is a prelude to a sneak attack from North Korean forces led by the terrorist Kang (Rick Yune).  The North Koreans manage to infiltrate the White House, and kill every Secret Service agent in the building before Banning manages to fight his way through the front door.  The only agent left alive, Banning must rescue the President and stop Kang from starting nuclear Armageddon.

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Olympus Has Fallen may have the Die Hard premise, but Fuqua has no idea what to do with the tone.  His movie is far too brutal to be trashy fun.  He takes advantage of his R-rating, but does so in an almost sadistic fashion as North Korean forces not only kill Secret Service agents, but shoot them in the head to make sure they’re dead.  However, the movie is also too cheap to match the seriousness of the violence.  The CGI looks terrible, so the austere action movie looks like a PlayStation 2 video game as CG guns riddle extras filled with CG blood.

The grim attack on Washington is well executed, but Fuqua never seems to get a sense of where to go from there.  That’s the big set piece, and while there’s more action sprinkled throughout, it’s mostly a bunch of poorly edited fistfights.  The “character” moments consist of Banning methodically making his way through the White House, and Kang torturing hostages so he can get the codes to the Cerberus failsafe, which will make the U.S. vulnerable to nuclear attack.  When Banning and Kang finally talk to each other, it’s like the conversation between McClane and Gruber but with none of the flair.

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Fuqua’s movie doesn’t mind taking inspiration (and wholesale scenes) from Die Hard, but it goes out of its way to avoid clichés only to arrive at the same conclusion, but in a more convolute manner.  When the President is kidnapped, the Vice President is also taken hostage, so they’re both trapped in the White House bunker.  That leaves the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) in charge.  Why not simply leave the VP out of the bunker and in the driver’s seat?  The Cerberus threat also makes no sense because it’s still getting to the point of nuclear Armageddon.  It’s just a roundabout way that makes the construction of the failsafe look idiotic just as it looks idiotic for the President and Vice President to go to the same location in the event of an emergency.

The appeal of “Die Hard in the White House” is that it seems relatively straightforward, but Olympus Has Fallen still manages to be a mess.  It rarely manages the balance between fun and intensity, and too often it veers into sadistic territory both on the side of Banning when he tortures suspects, and on the side of Kang when he tortures hostages.  Fuqua isn’t aiming for ambiguity to show how good and evil can operate through similar methods.  He’s simply delivered a muddled action flick that charges through the front door with guns blazing and eyes closed.

Rating: C-

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  • Brian

    Matt hates it. Thank god. I bought tickets yesterday and worried it might not be good. But that pretty much confirms that it’s a must see. Thanks!

    • David

      Funny… And true!!!

  • Collin

    Wait, so you’re giving it a bad review because its not similar ENOUGH to die hard? To quote Buzz Lightyear ” you are a sad strange little man”.

  • Bob

    Wait, why is it bad that the Koreans shoot the agents in the head to make sure they are dead. It seems like something a smart person would do, make sure your enemy is dead. Seems like a realistic thing that they would do to.

    Maybe someone else can explain to me what the problem with this is? I haven’t seen the movie yet though but I don’t understand how this is a negative aspect of the movie.

    • Mark

      I think he was making a point about the tone. The graphic quality of those scenes don’t mesh well with the way the rest of the movie is carried out. At least that’s how I read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Yeah ! Let’s save the man in the west wing instead of saving our kids from shootouts in schools and reeducating, wait, EDUCATING the youth of this country, that don’t know the History of other countries, let alone ours. 80% of our “enemies” are homemade.

  • The One Guy

    Every time I see a review posted on this site I think to myself “oh cool lets read” but much to my dismay I read the dreaded “by Matt Goldberg” and the one thought that pops in my head “SHIT!!” Come on Collider!!!!!! Does this guy really have to review every movie that comes out?? Am I the only one who thinks that it would be nice to get opinion of another person?

  • rp

    Damn you Goldberg! Damn you all to Hell! Burn Him! Burn him at the stake!
    Sorry, just trying to fit in.

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  • 2ceyellows

    Matt, how dare you give another movie a bad review! You’re only supposed to be giving positive reviews. And how dare you use intelligent arguments for why the movie was terrible. This proves that you’re a terrible critic because I haven’t even seen the movie and I already know it will be awesome. I mean, it has Gerard Buttler, the man who keeps playing in all of those amazing romcoms. How can a movie be bad with him in it.

    • Great white hype

      Goldberg is that you? As for intelligent arguments have you read his Hobbit review? You can like or dislike Tolkiens books but to say they are poorly written proves a lack of intelligence. Professors of linguistics usually know how to write. People raz Goldberg all the time. His reviews are all over the place. Get off his dong.

      • Steve

        At some point the question arises as to why you’re reading his reviews at all if you have such a low opinion of his skills.

      • Great white hype

        I like Collider in spite of him. Maybe it’s the freedom of speech. Others also review movies here but it seems Goldberg gets the bulk of them. I would also say based on the comments more people agree with my assessment of him than with yours. This movie might very well suck but I know you can’t take Goldbergs review at face value. Like I said before he’s all over the place. Counter my Hobbit argument. It was a troll review looking for hits. A real reviewer wouldn’t stoop to such a level.

      • Great white hype

        And makes you think I read this review? Maybe I just go directly to the comment section.

      • The One Guy

        completely agree dude I really don’t care that he hated this movie everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I just hate to see him reviewing every movie that comes out at some point I would love to see someone else’s point of view whether its a good review or bad review and yea this guys reviews are usually all over the damn place. I skip to the comments too haha

  • 2ceyellows

    Matt, how dare you give another movie a bad review! You\’re only supposed to be giving positive reviews. And how dare you use intelligent arguments for why the movie was terrible. This proves that you\’re a terrible critic because I haven\’t even seen the movie and I already know it will be awesome. I mean, it has Gerard Buttler, the man who keeps playing in all of those amazing romcoms. How can a movie be bad with him in it.

  • Alex

    Ehh. Looks alright. Just like a dumb, fun action movie like Quantum of Solace. Just wanna see Gerard Butler do his Leonidas thing (kicking ass).

  • It\’s A Trap!

    Goldberg drops his opinion, maybe you agree maybe you don’t …. meh. I’ll check this out because I like over the top brutality and as for the Die Hard comparison, well I’m sure other movies have ripped off the ailing franchise in poor fashion as well. I just wanna be entertained while consuming two days worth of overpirced calories. Can’t wait for Olympus Has Fallen 2 staring Segal!

  • The One Guy

    completely agree dude I really don\’t care that he hated this movie everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I just hate to see him reviewing every movie that comes out at some point I would love to see someone else\’s point of view whether its a good review or bad review and yea this guys reviews are usually all over the damn place. I skip to the comments too haha

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