Check the calendar, we must have jumped a few months ahead. That’s the only way to explain why the super-charged, action-packed Olympus Has Fallen — the kind of movie that fills movie theaters during the summer — is opening this week.
This high-powered tale of terrorists who take over the White House is Air Force One meets Die Hard. Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a former top Secret Service agent for President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) who ends up with a desk job after a tragic event. He returns to the White House when it’s attacked and taken over and becomes the only person who can save the president, the first son (Finley Jacobsen) and the United States.
These kind of big action movies work if the plot seems even remotely plausible, the central hero is tough enough to handle the job and the action rarely stops. Check, check and check.
A lot of leeway is often necessary when it comes to action-movie plots. But the Olympus Has Fallen script by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt is so solid when it comes to the way the White House is taken over that every step seems logical and feasible. They’ve also created some very distinct characters — both good and bad — who end up being more than the two-dimensional players who generally populate these kinds of movies.
This is the kind of movie Butler should make instead of fumbling around with light comedies like he has done in recent years. As Banning, he’s got that grizzled look of a man whose seen way too much death in his life — most of it of his doing. Butler snarls and snipes his way through the film, creating a character that falls somewhere between hero and anti-hero.
Along with Butler’s spot-on work, Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo and Angela Bassett all turn in solid performances — something that’s not always easy to do when there are more bullets flying than words in the script.
Director Antoine Fuqua starts the movie with a bang and escalates from there. What makes the film so good is the action isn’t just the kind of mindless carnage that comes across like the slaughter in a video game. Whether it’s a battle in the skies or a hand-to-hand confrontation, Fuqua knows how to get the most emotional impact from the scene.
The film has some problems, particularly an over-the-top performance by Dylan McDermott. But any small miscues get blown off the screen by a production that is pure explosive fun. Olympus Has Fallen may be opening in the spring, but it’s such a blast that it could still be in theaters when the summer films hit.
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett.
Director: Antoine Fuqua.
Screenwriters: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt.
Producers: Gerard Butler, Ed Cathell III, Mark Gill.
A FilmDistrict release. Running time: 100 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.