The 400-Word Review: Olympus Has Fallen
By Sean Collier
March 22, 2013
Usually, charges of unbelievability are out of place when talkin’ about the movies.
After all, movies — as well as all works of fiction — are usually about the day that things went differently. There are very few works about everything happening in a realistic and expected way; intrigue would be low for such projects.
So when a scoffing viewer mutters, “That would never happen,” you can reply, “That’s why they made a movie out of it.”
However, Olympus Has Fallen is a different beast entirely. Here, every plot machination strains credibility on the film’s own terms, and moreso on our accumulated knowledge of how a government works. Namely, that protecting the president is an important job, generally taken fairly seriously.
In the opening half-hour of Olympus Has Fallen, the US government commits the following colossal failures: The first lady is killed because a convoy containing the entire first family, en route to an unimportant Christmas party, was doing about 55 mph through winding rural roads in blizzard conditions; An invading warplane goes unnoticed by any military or civilian agency until it’s about two miles from the Capitol; upon learning of a paramilitary attack on the White House, the National Guard takes a good 20 minutes to turn up on Pennsylvania Avenue; a dozen or so random people are admitted on faith into the President’s underground bunker.
You know, the one with the launch codes and stuff.
The plot of Olympus Has Fallen follows the efforts of a semi-disgraced former Secret Service operative, played muscularly by Gerard Butler, as he mounts a lone-wolf attempt to rescue the President post-invasion. So, Die Hard in the White House.
But the thrill of the film is in just how ridiculous the premise and plot turns out to be. We haven’t seen more films with mayhem set in the heart of Washington because we know such attacks would be instantly overcome in a post-9/11 environment; this movie deals with that knowledge by straight-up ignoring it.
Fortunately, that makes it wacky without making it bad. Olympus Has Fallen is nothing if not entertaining, packed to the gills with over-the-top set pieces and a never-ending barrage of action. There’s even a solid cast, with Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott and a bunch more. Even when credibility flies out the window, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in some big, dumb cinematic fun.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark