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Film review: Olympus Has Fallen

Movies & Theatre

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN

DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua

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HANDOUT IMAGE: Still of Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler in Olympus Has Fallen. Photo by Phil Caruso – © 2013 - FilmDistrict. Credit: Photo by Phil Caruso

CAST: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Rick Yune

CLASSIFICATION: 16 LV

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

RATING: ***

Action films are the bane of my movie-going existence. Gun-toting muscled men playing humanity’s liberators amid the backdrop of tiresome CGI effects is about as appealing as having my fingernails pulled out.

That said, there are, of course, the classics. John McCLane and his “yippee ki yay mother f***er” Die Hard approach to beating the baddies will be forever entrenched in the minds of Eighties audiences, as will The Terminator and his promise that “I’ll be back.”

While it’s probably presumptuous to already categorise Olympus Has Fallen in the same league, it undoubtedly stands out from its modern skop, skiet en donder counterparts. (With a couple of memorable catch-phrases of its own – like “How ’bout we play a game of f**k off? You first.” – thrown in for good measure.)

The trademark components of a film of this genre are very much in place, as is the typically contrived plot that tells of an attack against the world’s most commanding country and how a solitary hero swoops in to save the day. But in complete defiance of common sense, you somehow still find yourself invested in the proceedings.

Perhaps it’s that Butler (as said solitary saviour), in all his natural gung-ho glory, pulls off the part of the balls-to-the-wall champion with demons to conquer to absolute perfection.

Ex-Special Forces operative and former member of the president’s Secret Service guard, Mike Banning (Butler) is thrown into the eye of the storm when a group of highly-militarised North Korean terrorists capture the White House – along with the American president (Eckhart) and a number of his key cabinet members.

While the bigwigs in government and the department of Homeland Security struggle to make head or tail of the situation, Banning bravely heads straight for the proverbial fire when he learns of this dire state of affairs.

In so doing, he effectively positions himself as the only man who can offer those in the hot seats insider information regarding the activities of the terrorist group – thereby inadvertently assigning himself the monumental task of retaking the White House, rescuing the president and saving the free world from all-out war.

No pressure.

Okay, so it’s hardly the stuff awards’ season accolades are made of. (Though Rick Yune’s deliciously menacing turn as bad boy Kang is worth noting.) And Fuqua’s deplorably poor use of the Oscar-winning talents of Freeman and Bassett (who spend much of the film looking completely lost and lobbing a few fist-pumps) is nothing short of shocking.

As, too, is the action – or lack thereof – afforded to Eckhart, whose performance also pretty much consists of being tied to a railing and being anything but authoritative. (He is, after all, meant to be the most powerful man on the planet.)

But if it’s a light night’s (if sometimes gruesome) entertainment you’re after, you’ll certainly fall for Olympus.

 

• If you liked Die Hard or Collateral Damage, this should be just up your street.

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