In the 1990’s, it seemed there was no shortage of action movies that could be described as “Die Hard on a _______.” After the last decade of superheroes, robots, and wizards, it feels oddly old-school to have a new movie where the bad guys are just plain old foreigners, with Olympus Has Fallen—a.k.a. “Die Hard in the White House.”
Starring Gerard Butler, who has yet to recapture his glory from 300 back in 2007, and an impressive supporting cast of familiar faces, Olympus Has Fallen is the story of a lone Secret Service agent who is the last chance for America after terrorists have taken over the White House. It’s a very good example of doing something WELL, instead of doing something NEW. There is very little surprise in the movie. The story, situations, characters, and twists are all what you expect if you’ve seen enough of these kinds of movies. What it lacks in suspense it makes up for in execution though.
The attack on the White House is very exciting and a bit scary. I do not know how plausible this kind of plot would be (hopefully not very), but the movies makes it LOOK plausible, which is crucial. There are shades of 9/11 involved, enough to make you think “yeah, that could happen.” They obviously didn’t shoot this at the real White House, so I don’t know if they used a model, sets, or CGI (probably all 3), but it looked extremely realistic. Maybe it would look less so to someone who lives in Washington and is more familiar with the layout of the grounds, since even I am nearly positive the actual building is set much further back from the street than portrayed.
The villains are North Koreans, and are suitably evil. They really do a good job of making you root against them as characters, since it’s hard to actually get fired up about North Korea, despite their recent real-world posturing. Like the Red Dawn remake last year, the idea of North Korea being sophisticated and powerful enough to attack the US is fairly ludicrous, but the filmmakers needed SOMEone to be the bad guy, and North Korea is the go-to country that we don’t like and aren’t really worried about offending.
Gerard Butler does a good job in the role of Last Man Standing. This is certainly his best movie since 300 and he should probably stick to more of these kinds of roles. He gets perhaps a bit too lucky and is maybe a bit too skillful, considering he is ostensibly fighting against trained killers, but such is the nature of action movies. It’s at least more realistic than the latest Die Hard movie.
My wife and I discussed a couple of the flaws or questions we had afterwards, but we both really liked it. The fact that she wanted to see this one enough to go out on opening night and then enjoyed it speaks well of both the marketing and the final product. It’s amazing that a movie featuring a takeover of the White House feels almost like a “small” action movie, but it’s a refreshing break from all the supernatural stuff we’ve been getting lately. They picked their niche and they delivered. Recommended on the basis of fun and entertainment, not because of any groundbreaking achievements.