Monday, April 22, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen, a review

If you are someone like me, you rolled your eyes a bit during the trailer for this flick, having recently tried scrubbing the bad taste from your mouth after that last Die Hard attempt. However, this is closer to the truth of what the "single savior versus terrorist" narrative actually represents: balls to the clanging wall action.

Beginning with a fairly typical prologue establishing remorse and death, Gerard Butler's Mike Banning has to save the day after the White House has been seized by North Korean terrorists.

Ripped from headlines, anyone?

NARRATIVE

Surprisingly, the film takes its sweet time in getting to the action. The brief bit of action at the beginning is set in a realistic fashion, almost routine. After being unable to save the President's wife, Banning is besieged with guilt and is forced from the White House inner circle. The pacing is slow but fairly methodical, giving us enough character moments to keep things interesting. The dialogue is about average, though nothing worth taking a shot over, and the action is decent.

Gerard Butler is somewhat restrained in the role, allowing himself little moments of sarcastic joy (like when he tortures some suspects; the scene had my buddy Holland and I rolling on the floor at the surprises) and he is cut from the rib steak of John McClane; a tough, no-nonsense, snarky hero with a hidden heart of patriotic fools gold.

Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman round out the decent cast, though neither of them has anything particularly memorable to contribute. But you ain't here for the acting, really.

TECHNICAL

Directed with subdued stylistic flair by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), the film crackles. The cinematography is, for the most part, nothing like the Bourne films (meaning you can see everything) and the color palate is suitable grim and gritty.

Another welcome addition is that the editor isn't hooked up to a caffeine drip of Colombian good sauce, and the pacing, once the action ramps up, is unrelenting. The opening assault on the White House is improbable but a hell of a lot of fun, coordinated and surprising in some of it's technique (realistic portrayals of big bullets going through little bodies). Accompanying this is wicked sound design that will have you bouncing in your seat with each fight.

(SPOILER) -- Also, a brief joke about a #hashtag had me laughing.

Far too much fun.

THEMES

'Murika.

Okay, fine. Patriotism gets a firm toot here, as well it should. The film portrays its' villains with no small part of sinister contempt and revels in it's pro-American love. Another hidden theme, this one far more interesting, is the nature of when we break. Witnessing a woman being tortured, the President has to stay firm in his refusal to release information.

Its a grim, intense sequence that will curl your toes, and hopefully help one realize that, well, being President sucks.

CONCLUSION

In short, this is the In n' Out of movies. Loaded with stuff that, on occasion, is quite good for you, Olympus Has Fallen is well-directed, well-acted and just too much fun. It is brainless, improbable and as patriotic as a John Wayne war film.

If you are down with that, you will enjoy this. If the sight of the American flag makes you wet with anger, likely skip it. For me, I enjoy a lot of cheese with my burger.

3.5 out of 5.

--Nick

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