This is an interesting take on terrorism that makes North Korean shown as brutal and ruthless. The plot for Olympus Has Fallen has topicality, since the storyline is the seizure of the White House by North Koreans who wish to facilitate the takeover of South Korea by the North and the movie was released at a time of heightened tension with North Korea threatening both the South and the USA with the launch of a nuclear missile. Beyond topicality, however, the plotting is utterly risible with nothing being remotely plausible in either military or political terms.
The timing of this films release, while a coincidence could not be more apt, with North Korean rouge agents playing the bad guys. Let’s be honest this film, is what it is. Escapist entertainment, if you’re politics are too far to the left your probably not going to like it too much. The American jingoism will probably begin to grate. But as an action film and 100 minutes of fun, is it any good? Well yes and no. Many scenes are paint by numbers plot points so there’s few awards for original dialogue here. The actors all do a good job, and Aaron Eckhart makes for a convincing Oval Office lead, with Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett lending gravitas as staunch suited military types who bark orders and debate the best course of action while Morgan requests his favourite coffee. Wings Hauser really makes his mark in a good supporting tole too. Butler however isn’t given the quick fire lines to make this Die Hard clone quite as memorable.
Their leader and main villain is played by Rick Yune, who is effectively reprising his role as Zao, the North Korean terrorist trying to bring about a re-unification under Communist control using a super weapon and blackmail, from 2002s unloved 007 “Die Another Day”. This follows the same cosmic coincidence of Will Yun Lee turning up as a cocky North Korean colonel in “Red Dawn”, which means that either Hollywood casting agents are very unimaginative (“North Korean villains? How about that guy from Die Another Day?”) or they are doomed to play the same roles for all eternity as some terrible punishment for that movie. Where is the surprise? It did pay good honor to the people who serve our country, probably the most patriotic movie I’ve seen in a while. Gerard Butler finally took a good move with this film, much better than recent work.
Relying on bloodied fight sequences and shoddy CGI explosions, the supporting cast (including Oscar winning Melissa Leo) are given nothing in the way of a good script or space to show off their acting credentials. Instead, they’re left hanging off the screen looking either despondent or aghast. However, it is still disturbing that the people involved with this dreck view it seriously and as ideologically significant. In an interview Gerard Butler, who also produced the film, endorsed its overt patriotism: “You come out of there with so much patriotism and you feel inspired because really at the end of the day the essence of the story, it’s a hero’s journey.” Patriotism is not an appropriate excuse for demonizing other cultures and working as hard as possible to inflate people’s fears through post-9/11 jingoism. I’d catch this film on Netflix on a rainy day, nothing more, nothing less.