Taking of the Capitol

Olympus Has Fallen

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Aaron Eckhart, Robert Foster, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser

Whilst it is not about the Greek financial crisis, Olympus Has Fallen, is a gripping, albeit unsubtle hostage drama involving  a vicious attack on the White House by a Korean paramilitary group who is seeking vengeance on America for the Korean War. Featuring Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, 300) as the original action hero, Mike Banning who is first introduced as a secret service aide to the youngish gung-ho American President Benjamin Asher played by Aaron Eckhart and the gorgeous First Lady briefly played by Ashley Judd at the Presidential retreat at Camp David where on a routine presidential outing a terrible car crash occurs on an icy bridge during a blizzard.

The action swiftly moves 18 months later to the White House and Capitol Hill where the rest of the cast is introduced including Oscar winners Morgan Freeman as the Secretary of State Trumbull and Melissa Leo as the tough Secretary of Defence Ruth McMillan along with Oscar nominees Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs and Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg. Director of the Oscar winning film Training Day, Antoine Fugua throws caution to the wind and without much intrigue depicts a full scale assault on the White House by a group of rogue Korean operatives, lead by Kang played by Rick Yune of Die Another Day fame,  who attack a key meeting  between the American and South Korean presidents and literally annihilate half of Washington DC including the famed Washington Monument.

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Fuque as director excels in his trademark bloody action style, and Olympus Has Fallen is no different and whilst the audience will be gripped in the midst of a Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 type hostage crisis, whereby the President is held captive by the villainous Kang with the assistance of some unlikely traitors, as a film it certainly does not leave much to the imagination.

The film’s action and violence is fast and thick which does little for any sense of diplomacy or pay tribute to the more complex political dynamic that America has with the 21st Century Korean peninsula, along with the current intricate relations Washington DC has with both Seoul and Pyongyang, the film only serves to bolster American patriotism at the hands of a foreign enemy invasion.

Whilst the action sequences are brutal and spectacular the remaining characterization in the film lies too thin to make this outlandish plot entirely plausible, although it is gripping entertainment but not nearly as good as Fugua’s all American crime dramas like Brooklyn’s Finest and Shooter. Watch out for particularly good performances by Dylan McDermott as Secret Agent Forbes and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as the tortured hostage and resilient Washington politician, whilst the rest of the cast including Radha Mitchell as Banning’s wife Leah and Cole Hauser have minimal screen time.

Olympus has Fallen is an intense action thriller with a vaguely political narrative serving to bolster American propaganda, but subtlety is not its strong suit, nor was it meant to be plausible or intriguing, just downright entertaining. Recommended viewing but not in the cinematic league of Enemy of the State, Spy Games or the brilliant Zero Dark Thirty.

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