Olympus Has Fallen

Mar 25, 2013

Enjoy a cheesy B thriller.

Olympus Has Fallen
Grade:  B
Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)
Screenplay: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Cast: Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher), Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole)
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 min
by John DeSando

"Let's play a game of Fuck Off. You go first." Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to bad guy Kang (Rick Yune).

If that sounds like a line John McClane (Bruce Willis) would have tossed off, then you get the idea why Olympus Has Fallen is being called “Die Hard in the White House.”  The hero here is Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a disgraced Secret Service agent once assigned to POTUS; Banning gets his chance to refurbish his reputation by trying to wrench the White House from North Korean commandos who have taken it over.

Olympus is a B actioner that follows the formula for presidents as hostages (see Air Force One starring Harrison Ford), at first neutered but ultimately victorious through wit and brawn. With the president’s son involved in the action, including several high-ranking government officials as hostages, the president is no position to fight back as Ford’s character was.

The boilerplate action is supplied by Banning, played with cool and some occasional light banter by Butler. The sense of humor in part comes from an awareness of the thriller genre’s formula and a willingness to lightly satirize it.  Although some of the action is hard to believe, at times there’s a gritty realism like swift shots to the head and headlocks that do their job quickly and efficiently. When garbage men and tourists turn into ugly Asian terrorists, there's a certain believability about disguise and surprise that makes me think it’s all possible. Additionally, director Antoine Fuqua scheduled the attack to reflect in real time the fifteen minutes it would take the military to arrive at the White House.

The black SUV’s, the sun glasses, the drum rolls, the foreign assassins, the wife at risk—these stock elements and more suggest we’ve been there before.  Yet considering this is the dead zone time of year for the movies, you might enjoy some old-fashioned thrills.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel. Contact him at