Gerard Butler is back in action in Olympus Has Fallen and the winner of his battle is the audience. After becoming a superstar in 300, Butler went into the romantic comedy business to mixed success. To see him wielding a weapon, fighting terrorists and attempting to retake the White House and free a president taken hostage, Butler has his finest role and performance in years.
Olympus Has Fallen is the story of Butler’s Secret Service agent Mike Banning. We meet him and the first couple (Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd) at Camp David as they ready the president to leave the compound and head to a fundraiser. It is Christmas time and the snow is falling. It’s no secret, given what is shown in the Olympus Has Fallen trailer, that a horrible accident occurs and Banning must make a choice as the presidential limo teeters off a bridge.
He saves the Commander in Chief and the First Lady falls to the icy river below in the crashing limo. Haunted by the tragedy, Butler excuses himself from White House detail and takes a gig working with the Treasury Department.
The story picks up 18 months later and Eckhart’s President Asher is now a single father trying to run a country. He is doing his best and on this day that is central to the entire Olympus Has Fallen plot, he is welcoming the Prime Minister of South Korea. Tensions are high with North Korea (in a case of art imitating life) and the two leaders are attempting to meet and resolve the issue.
Terrorists hit the White House hard and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) has orchestrated an assault on “America’s House” that is as believable as it can be… it’s downright frightening.
The president is rushed to the underground bunker, hundreds of feet below ground, with the Secretary of Defense (a stellar Melissa Leo), the Vice President and his South Korean guests. It is there, and you’ll get no details here, that the president is taken hostage and demands are made that will change the geopolitical landscape forever.
Butler is blocks away at the Treasury Department building and swiftly heads into action. His Secret Service agent fights his way into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and a certain classic film immediately comes to mind… and that is not a bad thing.
Sure, check out this Olympus Has Fallen clip -- Under Siege -- and it is clear that this film is “Die Hard in the White House.” Many films have taken that winning formula in the past. Yet, few have been worthy of sharing that action flick’s classic title. Fuqua’s flick warrants the moniker.
It is a worthy inheritor of the subgenre of action film and that is largely due to the performance of Butler, the witty writing of Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, and Fuqua’s impeccable command of his story.
And the supporting cast must sense the surprisingly entertaining nature of this fictional assault on the White House story as they each raise their game to meet the bar set by Fuqua. Morgan Freeman is his usual stellar self as the Speaker of the House who constitutionally takes the reins of government in the situation room alongside Angela Bassett’s Secret Service Director.
Leo is almost unrecognizable in the role of Secretary of Defense, and she plays her as someone who would rather die than negotiate with terrorists. Although the president is a major puzzle piece in this story, Eckhart knows that his character is merely a supporting player in the Butler action bonanza. His leader of the free world is a family man, who also is quite adept in the boxing ring (hint, hint).
And then there is Butler. The Scottish actor is right at home anchoring the story and our Olympus Has Fallen review can firmly state that he is the action star we’ve been waiting to find since the crew of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone have gone past their cinematic due date.
Might we suggest that Butler stay away from romantic comedies for a while and make nothing but action flicks? If they’re half as good as Olympus Has Fallen, Hollywood can safely say they’ve found their action star of the foreseeable future.