Film Of The Week: OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013)

When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a terrorist mastermind and the President is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped within the building. As our national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger disaster.

Actor Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning, a former secret service agent who saves the President's life from a freak car accident that kills the first lady, leading up to his removal and demotion to a desk job. Over a year later since then, the South Korean prime minister visits the President, when all of a sudden, Washington is taken in a hail airborne gunfire, with ground forces turning the White House front lawn into a war zone.

Unbeknownst to the prime minister however, North Korean paramilitary troops are invading the White House, and have successfully infiltrated his clearance, aided by traitors within the President's Secret Service, led by a madman who takes America's own Commander-In-Chief hostage along with his cabinet, and intends to bring America to its proverbial knees. And with no choice but to adhere to the call of duty, Banning jumps back into action as he takes to the White House to infiltrate the terrorists under the guise of darkness and the use of his own skill set, taking out each terrorist one by one in violent fashion in order to get as close to the President as possible while finding out just what the North Koreans are up to, and ultimately save the country from the brink of destruction.

As you can see, the story is pretty straightforward, with a story that pits an underdog hero against incredible odds that put an entire country at risk if all fails. Bullets fly, helicopters crash, people get shot and things go boom. And amidst it all, Butler remains nearly bulletproof, as he hasn't lost his touch at all as an action star since working on 300 and Gamer.

Aaron Eckhart does a nice job as the role of President Asher, who is better served when doing action role himself as well.  And considering this, I look forward to seeing more of him when I, Frankenstein comes out next year. And I also have to give credit to the film's youngest actor, Finley Jacobsen, who shines on the screen as the President's son. It wasn't a huge role, but he is very talented and handles himself very well for his age.

Seeing actress Angela Bassett was a treat for me while I haven't seen her on screen for a long time, playing a Secret Service director alongside actor Morgan Freeman who plays the House Speaker and the next-in-line as Commander-In-Chief when the President is taken hostage. I also enjoyed actor Rick Yune who plays the film's nefarious villain-it's not the first time he's been the antagonist in any film as he also starred in Die Another Day as the pale-faced, diamond scarred henchman, and also appeared opposite Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in The Fast And The Furious. Yune proves he is very multifaceted, very skilled and physically able to perform on screen, something I also witnessed in RZA's 2012 kung fu thriller, The Man With The Iron Fists as one of the heroes. For me, his best big screen role is still waiting for him, and I hope the right director comes along to make that happen.

Dylan McDermott is another person I have high appreciation for as an entertaining character actor. He used to star in the television lawyer drama, The Practice, a show I loved during its run, in addition to his recent role as a hilariously shadowy campaign manager in the 2012 comedy, The Campaign. His role in Olympus Has Fallen was small, but he impresses everytime, and I look forward to seeing him on screen again. And I also have to lend a lot of credit to actress Shanna Forestall, whose performance truly stood out in her scenes. She's a tough actress who will also be appearing in Simon West's next Jason Statham actioner, Heat, so I will be looking toward seeing her in that one as well.

When it comes to the action, I was pretty pleased. There was a tiny bit of dodgy CGI here and there, and shaky cam tends to be an issue. But all in all, the action scenes were enjoyable, and J.J. Perry and the rest of the action directors on set did a pretty good job illustrating all the mayhem that we see on the film. Perry also designed the fights we are going to see in the upcoming film, Oldboy, so if anything, if you haven't seen any of Perry's previous works, like Django Unchained, Warrior, Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing or Haywire, definitely check those out as a nice little prerequisite to the film's release in November.

I have to admit, Olympus Has Fallen was a surprise for me when I watched it recently on VoD. Even more so, I usually wait for films like these to come out on home release in case I fall asleep. And in this case, I felt compelled to sit it out considering White House Down came out three months later and I didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket. So to be honest, I did have my doubts about it at first before its theatrical release, even though I know Anton Fuqua is a pretty good director, the same director who brought us The Replacement Killers and will also deliver actor Denzel Washington as The Equalizer in the year to come.

In sum, despite some of the minimal flaws that occur throughout, I would say Olympus Has Fallen film makes for a pretty darn good purchase, if not a rental. The film is definitely a throwback to the kind of big scale blockbusters we knew and love in the 80's and 90's like Die Hard, Broken Arrow, Murder At 1600 and Executive Decision to name a few.

Conclusvely, Olympus Has Fallen is neither perfect nor hugely memorable. But it does provide its share of pure popcorn fun to keep any action fan stimulated, and I certainly recommend buying it via DVD or digital, as it is definitely worth a look.

The film stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Radha Mitchell, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Ashley Judd, Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster.


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