Antoine Fuqua‘s Olympus Has Fallen might very well be one of the best action films of the past couple years and a close tie with Side Effects as 2013’s best film so far. Olympus Has Fallen is that R-rated action film that we’ve been waiting for — One that’s never afraid to show massive amounts of bloodshed followed by a constant dropping of the F bomb. It does this all while remaining mostly fun, but slightly serious when needed. Gerard Butler retains his bad ass title after appearing in a handful of shitty romance flicks, while Antoine Fuqua reassures us that Training Day was no fluke.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) was at one point President Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) right hand man. The two were basically best friends until one tragic night when Asher’s car gets stuck on some slippery pavement and crashes on a bridge, causing the death of his wife and leaving Mike with an incredible amount of guilt.
Mike just can’t seem to get that night out of his head, while Asher tries his best to raise his son without a much-needed mother figure. Both men had their lives change in front of their eyes that night and just when hope is lost the White House gets attacked, causing both men to face their fears once and for all and to live up to that cold snowy night.
I’m not going to candy coat this at all. Olympus Has Fallen is perhaps one of the best 90’s movies that we never exactly got. Antoine Fuqua directs this film with such a balance for explosive action and intensely over-dramatic dialogue. The trailers might have this film painted as some corny-looking invasion flick, but the actual result is something sort of amazing, because of how simple and determined it is.
The film focuses on the character of Mike, played with much zeal and machismo by Gerard Butler. Butler essentially fills in as a Schwarzenegger or Stallone-type bad ass hero and he does so perfectly. Mike is that guy that you simply do not fuck with, ever. He’s introduced at the beginning of the film as the guy that’s not afraid to box with the president and even knock him on his ass and he’s later talked about as that guy that told various higher ups to go fuck themselves.
He’s tough all around, with a soft and warm center that is rarely exposed. Butler understands this and never complicates it. Where most modern action films would attempt to give our hero some sort of difficult path to fight through, Butler simply beats the living shit out of anything in his way that’s breathing. Not once do you really question if he’s going to make it out alive (or with all of his limbs attached) and it’s that kind of mentality that makes this film stick out among other action pictures.
Olympus Has Fallen is simple, but it’s also very effective.
It’s never afraid to show you the true horror of a homeland invasion, with lots of blood and bullet holes, but at the same time it’s never afraid to get silly and show you Gerard Butler stabbing a dude literally through the brain. He even partakes in one of the best on-screen interrogation scenes that I’ve never witnessed. It’s presented quickly and with lots of comedy and yet Butler still makes you move back in your seat for a brief second.
He’s just that bad ass.
Fuqua and Butler both embrace the film that they’re making, leaving some of the serious stuff up in the air, while enjoying every minute of the gunfire and mayhem. If you start picking apart Olympus Has Fallen for its realism then you’re going to run into a lot of problems early on. Sitting back and just enjoying what’s on screen is the best way to experience this film and maximize its potential.
It’s not just a throwaway popcorn flick, instead acting as a cold reminder of how action films used to be made. Long gone are the days of action films that aren’t afraid to embrace the simplicity of an idea.
I almost thought it was impossible to make something as fully cooked and enjoyable as Olympus Has Fallen. The film is very much a representation of an era when we as a country weren’t so afraid of the get-shit-done attitude. When guys like Mike Banning actually existed and did what had to be done regardless of what the law was or what the higher authorities say.
America as a country has sort of spun off into a country that avoids the situation until the absolute last minute and Olympus Has Fallen shows us how that pans out. It does so with excess, but the point is still as obvious as ever. Sometimes old fashioned works.
Olympus Has Fallen is a perfectly blended action film. It’s gritty when it needs to be and serious when it absolutely has to be, but there’s never a shortage of entertainment. Butler shouts out one-liners in almost every scene and Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman help ensure the quality of the overall performances. Sure, there’s a little too much CGI used and the plot’s as thin as a napkin, but if you accept the film for what it truly is then I believe that you will find yourself extremely satisfied with what Antoine Fuqua has cut together.
Olympus Has Fallen – 8.5/10