Olympus Has Fallen
The Gerard-Butler starring action flick is a derivative throwback to straightforward action movies
Will anyone welcome Kim Jong-Un’s flirtation with nuclear apocalypse? Well, Gerard Butler might, as the new Dear Leader has provided the mother of PR gifts to this piece of action-disaster cinematic imperialism.
Butler plays Mike Banning, head of the President’s security detail exiled to the treasury after the accidental death of the First Lady (Ashley Judd) before a team of Korean paramilitary guerrillas storm the White House, take the President (Aaron Eckhart) hostage in the bunker below the building and execute the Vice President live on air.
Thus Butler is left as America’s one-man army; armed with gun, knife and clichéd comebacks, he looms through the now gutted corridors of power, engaging a very large number of Korean henchmen in a swaggering dance of death, intent on freeing the President - and with him all that is principled in the world - from the jaws of radical terror.
Director Antoine Fuqua took old rope and tied it in knots with the fraught, fierce Training Day, with Denzel Washington recast as the filthiest of dirty cops. Here, Fuqua has cast to type; Butler the straight arrow agent, Eckhart the callow, poster boy President, Morgan Freeman the world-weary Speaker of the House, each impregnable in their valor.
Butler lacks the knocked-off humour of Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson; his is more of a solemn brutalism. He will stop to wince, mid-scene, as he pulls shards of glass from his torso, before continuing gruffly on, while the film pauses and a drum-martial score plays over a blood-red sky and a bullet-ridden American flag flutters to the floor.
It would be easy to crinkle your nose at such a film; it’s derivative, it’s cheesy, it’s fantastically unconvincing, its patriotism unabashed, its politics reductive, its morals binary. Yet it’s also imbued with a strange, nostalgic seduction; a throwback actor in a throwback movie appealing to a throwback time when we accepted good guys and bad guys for what they always were; myths of a dominant culture.
General release from Wed 17 Apr.