Olympus Has Fallen | Movie review
Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent must save the world when terrorists take over the White House.
Credit is due to Antoine Fuqua; it takes brass balls to waste not just Morgan Freeman but also Melissa Leo in egregiously underwritten supporting roles. When Leo, playing the secretary of defense, recites the Pledge of Allegiance while being dragged across a floor by her terrorist captors, you don’t know whether to laugh or look away in embarrassment. Laughing would be preferable, but Fuqua is so insistently, skull-poundingly earnest that Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t even work as unintentional camp. It’s a soul-grinding slog.
Gerard Butler, still searching unsuccessfully for a genre to feel at home in, plays Mike Banning, formerly on the Secret Service’s presidential protection detail but now relegated to a desk job at the Treasury. When terrorists attack the White House, he dashes over and, with remarkable ease, gets inside so he can go all John McClane. Butler brings nothing in particular to the role; it could be played by any slab of beef who can fire a gun and mimic hand-to-hand combat. He’s given a few zingers to deliver (“Let’s play a game of fuck off. You go first”), but he’s so humorless they fail to land.
The movie proceeds with the subtlety of an M1 tank. Baddies sneer operatically, blood sprays from exit wounds, and French horns and drums attempt to beat the audience into submission. Fuqua also wraps the story in unearned patriotic fervor. To begin your film with a shot of an American flag fluttering in the breeze is perhaps a bit over the top, but to then end it with another flag waving in majestic slow motion smacks of desperation.