Thursday, 18 April 2013

Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman

Olympus Has Fallen is the very definition of mediocre. If it were a national soccer team, it’d be USA; if it were a flavour of ice cream it’d be plain old vanilla. Sometimes mediocre is OK, and Olympus Has Fallen is at times just that; it’s OK.

The entire film feels like it belongs in the mid 1990s, sandwiched somewhere in the timeline between Die Hard With A Vengeance in 1995 (when this type of film was at its peak) and The Matrix in 1999 (which redefined how studios thought of the action genre), To the film’s credit it doesn’t try to be anything more than just another Die Hard knock-off and gives the audience exactly what they expect and preciously nothing else. It’s no worse than Under Siege or Sudden Death except that they were made in a time when the material still had some morsel of life left in it.

The film’s script is laid out exactly like a 90’s action film. There’s the inordinate amount of banter between the leads and minor character to fulfil backstory; there’s the opening scene which has the sole purpose of setting up dramatic tension; there’s a room full of men in military dress with star and medal who say nothing, except the one gung-ho Commander. Even the score is reminiscent of James Horner’s work in the Jack Ryan films.

Yet again, these by-the-number attributes aren’t necessarily a terrible thing, just something which adds nothing new to the tried and tested formulas. What matters in an action film is the action; and Olympus Has Fallen yet again falls in the middle of mediocre. There is a fantastic extended sequence where the terrorists storm the White House, starting with a C-130 plane opening fire on innocent citizens on the streets of Washington DC and ending with an all-out gun fight between heavily armed terrorist and the White House security. This sequence was thrilling and deserves to be in a better film than this; moreover, it deserved to be in a film where the hero was named John McClane.

For a film with a premise of the most heavily guarded house in the world being taken over by terrorists, the action inside the White House is woefully dull and undoes any good work used in the set up. It’s just one quick fight after another and one short shootout after another and none of them last long in the memory as the film struggles to show any signs of originality or identity in the genre. Moreover, the decision to film the interior in near-dark was a huge oversight as barely anything can be made out at times.

Gerard Butler shares a portion of the blame by delivering a leading man performance as uninspired as anything you’re likely to see and failing with every attempt with the Bruce Willis-like one liners; it’s easy to see why he never became A-List, on this performance his list is near the end of the alphabet. Thankfully the film is saved by Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, and Angela Bassett who, although mostly sleepwalk through these roles, are always dependable.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: Almost as a parody of itself, the film ends with a giant red clock counting backwards but by this point the opinion on Olympus Has Fallen has long since been made. The production never feels like the film makers were attempting anything other than a ‘3 star’ film and sometimes that’s all you can ask for. The truth is major studios will certainly release a lot worse than Olympus Has Fallen in 2013 but whether that’s faint praise for this film or a sad indictment on the status of action movies all depends on how much you enjoy plain old vanilla.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)