Remember TRAINING DAY? Man I really love that movie- which is part of the reason I was really excited for Antoine Fuqua’s latest film OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. I didn’t see a single preview for the film until for some reason they played one in front of the screening that I was in attendance for and I’ll admit that the short trailer that was shown kind of got me excited for a brainless action flick. The extent as to the brainlessness was what I was not prepared for. Fuqua’s film is full of nothing but Gerard Butler winking at the camera delivering one liners, horrid CGI effects and darkly lit action in which you can barely tell what’s happening. The incomprehensible takes hold from the get go and doesn’t let up until the very end.
As stated before Gerard Butler stars as Mike Banning, a secret service agent that is for some reason shamed after an accident that wasn’t even his fault leads to the death of someone very close to the president. A year and a half after the incident he has since been shunned from the secret service and confined to a desk job at the US Treasury. Tensions between North and South Korea prompt the South Korean Ambassador to visit the White House which North Korean terrorists use as an opportunity to attack and take control of the Presidential stronghold and holding President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) along with several other VIPs hostage. During the attack Banning takes initiative to sneak his way into the White House and find the President’s son to get him out of harms way and taking out the terrorists one by one to redeem himself for his previous failings.
Forget the reliance on using Koreans as villains lately and said enemy seizing control of a section of American soil- the film has a myriad of bigger issues. Nothing about anything that happens here makes any lick of sense. Government officials are tortured into giving away their Top Secret security codes and the president orders them to give the code and swears they will never get his out of him, yet what’s to stop these terrorists from pulling these people in front of him again and torturing them all over again to get his code? Even that is only a small part of questions I had during the film as there will be several points where you will likely be leaning to the person next to you pointing out some kind of inconsistency.
During the initial siege of the White House which might very well be kind of fun to watch is undermined by some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in recent memory for a wide release film. When I say these effects are bad, I mean they are embarrassing- at times it looks like test footage that the artists forgot to render before submitting it for a final cut. At one point when we see an aftermath shot of the DC skyline it looks like an obvious CG model with absolutely no realistic mapping rendered in. Eventually once these ‘epic’ action scenes comes to a close Fuqua centers the action in the darkened White House where a whole new set of issues arise.
The opening assault on the White House will likely evoke some post 9/11 feelings and to an extent the shot of the plain approaching the city and barraging the area with bullets are mildly effective. Those scenes fall apart once the seams start showing and the horrid CGI becomes more prevalent. The ground assault which features suicide bombers also pokes the post 9/11 nerves that go hand in hand with the countless number of reports of suicide bombers overseas during the war and becomes a bit too transparent at trying to poke at those fears.
The casting of Gerard Butler I find to be one of the first signs that this could either be ridiculous but entertaining or just plain embarrassing- in the end it’s a weird mixture of both. Butler has the tough guy part down, but he never brings much to it and at times be barely even tries to hide his accent. LAW ABIDING CITIZEN is somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me, but Butler’s physicality is obscured by fight scenes filmed in nearly pitch black rooms where you can barely tell what’s happening and is topped off by a mildly amusing, but usually always eye roll inducing one liner.
Lastly, the script is easily one of the most boring, incompetent and ridiculous pieces of writing I’ve encounted so far this year and maybe of the last couple years. Aside from Butler’s one liners there’s Aaron Eckhart putting on his best ‘pissed off face’ and ordering people to give these terrorists super duper top secret nuclear codes that make the US vulnerable to nuclear attack- and this is supposed to be the man that will stop at nothing to protect the country he is in charge of. Each of the people threatened refuse to give their code until Echart screams and orders them to give it up- that’s just a small example of the mind numbingly idiotic decisions the characters make. Then of course there’s the generic sneering villain barely worth mentioning except to say, wow, how did this guy get this job? Not just the actor, but also the stuff that gets revealed about his character that I found to be so ridiculously stupid I might have walked out if I hadn’t already given up an hour and twenty minutes of my time.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN might find an audience willing to put up with it- in fact I know there were people at my screening that enjoyed it quite a bit, I’m just not one of them. I admit that I laughed a few times, but I got bigger laughs from pointing out stuff that didn’t make sense with a friend sitting next to me and making up dialogue that I’m willing to bet fit better than whatever was in the script. Fuqua isn’t to blame for the failure lying within the screenplay, but he is to blame for deeming it worthy of his time and bringing it to life in this way. There are fleeting moments that made me smile, but at times I felt I was laughing at it rather than with it. Everything that usually makes a fun action flick is here except that it looks like something that good action movies would unceremoniously leave in the toilet after an unfortunate encounter with irritable bowel syndrome.