ANTOINE FUQUA HAS FALLEN
Olympus Has Fallen
Review by Steve “WhiskeySour” Brown
In the world of art, there exists something called “Paint by Numbers”. It’s quite common, nearly every child everywhere has done one. It’s purpose is to make the painter feel confident in their ability to create, while covertly forcing them to practice the most basic brush strokes. Essentially, the format has more faith in your ability then a coloring book, but not so much as to have actual faith.
Action movies are basically Hollywood’s version of “PBN”. They almost, to the letter, follow a very predictable formula that audiences eat up time and time again. They usually begin with depicting the main hero as a tough, spunky warrior, who is then beset by tragedy forcing him out of his normal epically cool lifestyle. The tragedy usually aims the hero on a collision course with the main bad guy, who is then eventually defeated, so our hero can go back to being awesome. Throw in a hot girl, some snappy one-liners, broken up by increasingly bigger explosions or spectacular fighting scenes (or both) and you have an action movie. Things like characterization, plot, dialogue, believable acting are all places you can save money by leaving them for your interns. After-all, that fight staging and special effects wont pay for themselves, but apparently internship is free.
So, I was not surprised in the least when “Olympus has Fallen”, directed by Antoine Fuqua, had Mike Banning (Gerald Butler) sparring with Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) as its opening scene. Asher, the President of the United States, apparently enjoys a friendly boxing match with his head of secret service, whenever he can catch a moment away from running the free world. Banning, a hero who does not pull any punches (literally) soundly beats him, not at all worried about his job tomorrow. Soon after, tragedy strikes and our plucky protagonist has to choose between saving the President or saving the President’s wife.
I wont spoil for you who he saves, but it really is quite obvious. Hint: the movie would abruptly end if this character died.
Anywho, Banning’s completely understandable choice ironically is what gets him canned from his job. One arbitrary year and a half later, he’s ether working for some security firm guarding the treasury or he’s one of their accountants. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure which. About fifteen minutes into the movie I do become sure about something, though. The dialogue is amazing! Whichever intern is responsible for it’s writing would normally have a great career ahead of him but unfortunately no one cares about interns. Ether way, you have my props, nameless intern, for somehow NOT using the type of language I expected government officials in a movie to use, but the type of language any human being would use given the circumstances. The dialogue was gritty, not overly monologuey and most importantly: realistic and believable!
However that was where the pleasant surprises for me ended. Of course Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart were entertaining, but that is something I’ve come to expect from those two vets. I can only award minor points for good acting in a movie genre where all the exciting action sequences make even cardboard cutouts look like Emmy nominees.
Unsurprisingly, the movie stuck woodenly to the tested and true action formula, but in such a way that it seemed phoned in. Banning puts himself back in the line of fire when the President is taken hostage. As if ex-employees of the American government return to their previously life-endangering jobs all the time. The terrorists want the American government (now led by Morgan Freeman’s Speaker of the House Trumbull) to pull their troops out of South Korea, which would allow South Korea to once again take up arms and finish their civil war. And various characters spend the rest of the movie alternating between versions of “We can’t doom the people of Korea by withdrawing” and “We don’t negotiate with terrorists”, debating whether or not to save a handful of America’s best politicians. Make sense? It doesn’t matter, ’cause it’s good chunk of movie that is forgotten and never resolved. But that’s OK because Gerard Butler is a one man super-army, taking back The White House despite the best efforts of his enemy and his superiors.
This is where “Olympus has fallen” falls the hardest. Tension, and how it’s manipulated, is the difference between good action films and great ones. Throughout the duration, “Olympus” tries to use tension, but the nearly zero dedication to details derails it. Banning’s character has a wife or girlfriend (not made very clear which) and it seems they’re having some issues relating to one another. Too bad no one cares. At one point the terrorists mention her name to Banning, but the only reaction elicited from me was to wonder why they bothered. The wife/girlfriend character was so ambiguously created and used, it was like the terrorist had threatened Banning’s favorite arm chair.
The dialogue was it’s only strong area, but liking the film because of that would be akin to thinking a park bench a good snack because someone spilled your favorite espresso on it. In short, the Paint by Numbers picture never becomes anything real, but stays a feeble child’s attempt at creating something the grown-ups have done before and done better. But just for the record, I’m not bitter I spent my money to see “Olympus has Fallen” because clearly Morgan Freeman needs it more then I do.
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Release Date: March 22, 2013
Run Time: 120 Minutes
Distributor: Film District