Olympus Has Fallen is everything you might expect from a film that stars Gerard Butler single-handedly defending the White House against a small army of terrorists; there’s gratuitous violence, cringe-inducing amounts of cheese, and constant, unrelenting action. It’s all completely ridiculous, but – it has to be said – it’s also pretty entertaining to watch.
The plot is basically made up of shots of the American flag, shots of important-looking people striding down corridors (backed by booming, patriotic music), and shots of Gerard Butler shooting, stabbing, kicking, punching, and (of course) body-slamming terrorists. There are also roughly 16,321 shots of things exploding. Butler plays former Presidential guard Mike Banning, who gets a chance to make amends for an event in his past when the White House comes under sudden attack and President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is taken hostage. The majority of the film is set in the White House itself, with Butler creeping around Bruce Willis-style, picking off terrorists and smack-talking Speaker Turnbull (Morgan Freeman) and terrorist-leader Kang (Rick Yune) through an earpiece.
While Olympus Has Fallen might not be the most original film in the world, it has to be said that it does what it does well. Antoine Fuqua does a solid job with the direction and the film is well-edited and put together, making the most of the action sequences and building plenty of tension throughout. Despite the over-the-top nature of the script, there are some more self-aware moments – Butler battering one unlucky terrorist to death with a Presidential bust, for instance – and these help us take the film with the pinch of salt that is badly needed when watching.
Unfortunately, these moments are the exception rather than the rule. Olympus Has Fallen is let down by its unrelenting corniness – there are far too many shots of people applauding and saluting, and far too many clichéd lines – and the fact that it is just so ridiculous in places; the plane-attack the terrorists initially launch on the capital seems a long way from realistic, for instance, as does the ease with which they break in to the White House and take hostages. These are the eye roll-inducing moments that often creep into action films and which make it that little bit harder for us as an audience to suspend our disbelief.
If these small faults can be ignored, the film is perfect mindless viewing – if not, it’s just another all-American action flick with more firepower than substance.