Unreal Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen


Someday, or maybe never, we’ll get a 24 movie. Jack Bauer’s final season ended on a cliffhanger to set up such a film at a later date, and though we keep hearing “it’s coming, it’s coming,” it has not, as of yet, come.

But looking at Olympus Has Fallen, we get a glimpse into what such a movie may look like. North Korea lays siege to the White House and one man has the creep through the smoke and corpse filled hallways to save the day before sunrise? Sounds like a job for Jack Bauer if I’ve ever heard of it.

Mike Banning is not Jack Bauer however, nor does he work for the fictional CTU. Rather, he’s a Secret Service agent bumped off the president’s private detail after a (not his fault) road accident kills the First Lady.


Ashley Judd trying her hand at fake politics before venturing into the real thing.

Riding a desk at the Treasury department, Banning (Gerard Butler) witnesses a USAF AC-130 (or something like that) strafe downtown DC and the White House itself with gatling guns. Secret Service agents die by the truck load while the President (Aaron Eckhart) and the visiting South Korean Prime Minster hurry into a bunker along with other important figures like the Secretary of Defense and the Vice President.

That’s only stage one, and the situation goes from bad to worse when a bunch of Asian tourists turn out to be Korean commandos, and they storm the softened up White House, butchering literally every remaining Secret Service on the premises.

But not Banning. While all this was happening, he was dodging bullets on the White House lawn and manages to be the only not dead person on the premises fifteen minutes after the assault starts.

The film switches from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to Die Hard at this point, with Banning skulking around in the shadows, snapping necks and putting holes in heads. He has to rescue the President and stop a much larger threat that involves the fate of the entire country. There’s a lot of sensitive stuff in that underground bunker, and the people needed to operate it are also there as well, being held at gunpoint.


“Hello, please don’t kill us.”

I like Gerard Butler. I think he’s a great guy from what I’ve seen in interviews, and he’s kicked ass in more than a few movies from 300 to Law Abiding Citizen. But here he’s no Jack Bauer. Or Ethan Hunt. Or John McClane.

He tries to be. We’re told that he was the man who told the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) to “go f*** himself,” the same Speaker of the House who is now acting president. Banning curses at the terrorist leader in a variety of colorful ways over the radio, but there’s no “ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun” moment to make it truly memorable.

The plot is so insane it makes Red Dawn look plausible. I get that this is a movie and we’re supposed to suspend disbelief, but there’s never a remotely plausible explanation for how sophisticated the attack is or how North Korean terrorists got their hands on US military death planes or other ordinance. Verbatim from the film: “How did they get that secret DoD prototype auto turret on the roof of the White House?” “Doesn’t matter, take it out!”

And take it out Banning does, along with everyone and anyone inside for a solid two hours.

It’s an alright film, and the opening sequence watching the White House under siege would make Michael Bay cry with its carnagraphic beauty (that’s a world I just made up that applies here).  But past that, there’s not all that much which is memorable. Butler’s Banning is something of a blank slate, and pacing around dark corridors shooting people in the head may be badass, but there’s not a whole lot of style to it. It’s a video game, essentially, and we all know how good of movies video games usually make.

2.5 out of 5 stars


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  1. “Banning curses at the terrorist leader in a variety of colorful ways over the radio, but there’s no “ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun” moment to make it truly memorable.”

    SPECIFICITY. I actually, coincidentally, watched Die Hard again last night and was struck again by how specific and memorable everything in that movie is. The bare feet, the supporting cast, the steps taken by McClane… it’s very well-written stuff. And it’s really not all that sensationalistic apart from a couple of key moments. Most of it is low-key, cause-and-effect stuff that works because we understand and care about what’s going on.

    And almost everything is explained. Gruber’s plan may be far-fetched, but there is one, and all of his actions come either from that plan or from John McClane. That this movie handwaves that part of building a plot should be a huge effing red flag.

    I obviously haven’t seen Olympus yet (and probably won’t), but I’ve seen plenty of modern action movies that attempt to emulate Die Hard and totally miss what makes it a great movie.

    Also: Carnographic? Great word. A word I needed in a conversation last night. You may see it pop up elsewhere on the site…

  2. Gosh, you certainly are negative and not fun. What exactly makes this movie so unreal? That it was NOT put in a nice, neat bow for you – to understand thoroughly and attack it from some other angle? I mean, do you have experience with foreign attacks on US soil? Is that why it’s unreal? Because in your vast experience, those things aren’t possible or plausible?

    I can think of at least two historic attacks on American soil where we got completely destroyed. 911 and Pearl Harbor, so to think that over-confidence, antequated security protocols or secret service agents with your same sense of robot, non-creativeness could exist…I’d say it IS arguably quite possible that we could get massacred like that – even at the beloved White House. I’ve always heard if someone is determined enough, you don’t know what they’re capable of. Often times, it’s those harsh realities and moments that shape our national security and make it stronger – only after we see the horror we didn’t think was possible in fact IS.

    Now, as for Banning running around the White House taking people out. Again, what is he supposed to have a personality and put it on display for you to grow attracted to? Is this an interactive – viewer participation, virtual date or a movie? I personally like the fact that they sort of just dropped the viewer right into a situation where the viewer didn’t have all the answers – when in life do we ever have all the answers anyway? Why is there this expectation that someone like you or anyone should understand everything? Who do you think you are?

    Maybe the viewer is meant to infer where that weapon on the roof came from or why this terrorist was so prepared and clearly stated that the US Military’s response time to the White House was 15 min and they did it in 13. If they stopped to explain everything for your ego and need to have it in a bow, then the move might not flow the way it did, which I think was brilliant. But, I don’t know…maybe you have experience with being in hostile territory on your own home turf too, which is why that seemed impossible. If you’ve ever had any training in anything combative (and I don’t mean video games) then you would know the gross disparity of what familiar territory means to a hostile situation. We got slaughtered in Vietnam, so is it really impossible to think someone could go undetected and pull off at least some of what he did? And as for him not being shot in the beginning…he wasn’t in a secret service suit, he wasn’t in FRONT of the moving attack and he kept proxying his position with cover where he could to advance…damn, if you ever played laser tag you’d even know that – you don’t need to have been in the Navy Seals or special forces to know that one. Also, if you knew anything about American History – or at least saw the Patriot you would know that it was not so different from how Americans fought antequated, traditional British attacks.

    There was no objectivity in this review whatsoever. I know you think you did your job by getting a response…but I used to be a critical reviewer myself and if you can get a viewer to come back and read your stuff THEN you’ve done your job…I won’t be back. People like you should just stop going to see movies. Almost nothing is ever good enough for you all.

  3. I finally got around to watching Olympus has fallen and it was just as unreal and unbelievable as I thought it was going to be. First let’s deal with the AC-130 Spectre that managed to take out two fighter planes before wreaking havoc on Washington. I can buy that the F-16 pilot on the left side got to close to the gun ship and managed to shot down by the mini-guns. I do not buy the death of the second F-16 on the right hand side of the AC-130, seeing as how AC-130’s are armed only on the left side of the plane. If the AC-130 somehow managed to make it passed the extremely maneuverable fighter jets, it would not make it passed the antiaircraft missile installations on top of the White House. The AC-130 Gunship is equipped with an impressive flair system to ward off missile IR missile attacks, but modern surface-to-air missiles are equipped with UV sensors as well. As a minor quibble the AC-130 is show firing on random people directly in front of or underneath the AC-130 which is impossible because of the left-side mounted weaponry. So that whole scene is monumentally unrealistic.

    Now let’s move onto the Attack on the White House. In real life the president would not have gone into an underground bunker during an aerial attack, simply because if a plane crashes into the White House the president would be trapped underground beneath a burning plane wreck. As we saw in 9/11 the moment an attack was identified the president was rushed out of the White House and put on Air Force One.

    O.K. now that we have that out of the way, let’s deal with the actual attack on the White House. According to Banning, the terrorists are using C-4 explosives to secure the White House and presumably that was what was used to take out the gates. We live in a post 9/11 world, there are explosive “sniffers” located all round D.C., no one would have been able to get within 10 blocks of the White House lawn with that much explosive residue.

    OK so maybe the the sniffers are offline and no one notices a bunch of Asian foreign nationals with automatic weapons hanging around the White House lawn during an aerial attack of Washington D.C., except that during an attack on D.C. the White House front lawn would be cleared and all of the staff and the president would be rushed out of the back. But maybe they were to busy dealing with a gunship to do crowd control. So terrorists with explosives blow open the gates the and rush the lawn to have a gun fight with the Secret Service and the White House Security. So let’s think this through; there are men with guns on the White House lawn, what seems like the safer position for the highly trained security staff? To leave the safety of the hardened White House, or rush head first into a firefight with armed terrorists? Yeah, they lock the doors and take defensive positions inside the White House behind bullet proof glass.

    Now we get to the real stupidity of the writers. The Presidential Bunker. So the government knows that the terrorists have invaded the White House, they change the nuclear codes as a precaution, but they forget to pull the DSL connection? How do you allow an in stallion to be over run and also allow them access to the secure military intranet? Shortly after the Nuclear codes would have been changed, the server access to the military, the power, and the all of the hard-lines to all of the secure databases would have been blocked and severed so that no one could use the information to attack the government.

    This movie was just full of fail but more than that, it was boring to watch after the initial destruction of D.C. and the White House.

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