Well I’m definitely eating my proverbial hat right now. What’s that phrase about a book and a cover? Forgive me if I can’t remember, my brain is still ringing from watching the latest GERARD BUTLER (sorry, Wittertainment joke) offering. After seeing the trailer I had dismissed this as another poorly written, poorly executed, action by numbers affair but having watched Olympus has Fallen last night, it has more to offer than you may think.
I’m not giving anything away by saying that the set up of the film; the partial destruction of The White House, the evisceration of the Secret Service and kidnapping of the President, is all structured to get Butler, disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Branning, alone in The White House with a gun, a knife, 20 generic terrorists and some brilliant one liners. This is a film that knows where it’s strengths are and it tries to get there as quickly as possible, which is why it is no surprise the first quarter of an hour is easily the weakest part of the film. The characters aren’t anything we haven’t seen before and the dialogue borders on cliché and, dare I say it, boring. Then, all of a sudden, the first shots are fired, it all kicks off and I was gripped for the next 100 minutes. I would even go as far as saying I was riveted.
The action in this film is fantastic and, once it starts, it doesn’t stop until the film finishes. The set pieces are executed tremendously well and, despite it being a stretch to accept the notion of a successful attack on one of the most secure locations in the world, the director, Antoine Fuqua, injects a tangibly real quality to the film. It’s not surprising considering Fuqua’s previous work; Training Day, Exit Strategy, Tears of the Sun and Shooter are evidence enough of an understanding of the genre. Faqua clearly knows how to work his way around around a shoot out. The fight sequences here are no different. They are savage and expertly choreographed, drawing the audience in without glamorising the increasing violence. Credit also needs to be given to Gerard Butler in his role; he is credible, physically convincing, charming and powerful, and drives the film from start to finish as our lone hero. There are also some commendable performances from Aaron Eckhart and Melissa Leo in supporting roles, who manage to keep the film ticking over outside of the action.
Olympus has Fallen isn’t doing anything new in terms of narrative, character or script, but what the film does achieve is an hour and a half of masterfully executed action sequences and a few quips of which John McClane would be proud. I hope all of this translates onto the small screen, and in case it doesn’t, go and see this in the cinema. You won’t be disappointed.