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Antoine Fuqua’s ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ Raises Bar in Action

Director Antoine Fuqua

What if I told you that the new Gerard Butler film is like ‘Die Hard in the White House’ in more than just a generic ‘Die Hard in/on/at a…’ kind of way? Or that it features the highest, bloodiest, most ridiculous onscreen body count in an action film since Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo? Or that it’s the most purely entertaining film of Butler’s career? Or that the damn thing is a ton of fun?

It’s all true. . . but none of it means there aren’t some incredibly unfortunate elements in Olympus Has Fallen too.

In director Antoine Fuqua’s film that also stars Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett, Mike Banning (Butler) is head of the president’s (Aaron Eckhart) secret service protection detail, but an accident resulting in lost lives sees him reassigned to a desk job down the street at the U.S. Treasury building. When dozens of well-armed and highly organized North Korean terrorists attack the White House 18 months later the formerly disgraced agent becomes the president’s, and America’s, greatest hope. (Good thing they don’t know he’s actually Scottish.)

The well-coordinated attack begins with a military-style jumbo jet strafing the streets of Washington, D.C. before zeroing in on the White House itself, and it’s followed by a creative ground assault that breaches the gate, the grounds and the front door Mumbai-style before taking control of the entire building. From there Banning is in a race to save as many lives as possible and prevent an even greater nationwide catastrophe.

Fuqua‘s latest is as hardcore an action film as Hollywood has delivered in some time with the focus being almost exclusively on gunplay and fisticuffs for most of its run time. The script by first-timers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt essentially divides the action into two parts with the first act moving quickly to and through the ground assault and the final two-thirds focused on Banning’s patriotic efforts to clean up the White House.

They’re not above pulling the occasional heart string, but it’s so infrequent that they should probably be applauded. . .  at least until we hear one too many examples of saccharine and idiotic speeches and realize the story is thinner than a single page of the script. Their affection for Die Hard is clear though up to and including a scene that had me doing my best Clarence Gilyard Jr. impression with “the QB is toast!”

Read more: Rob Hunter, FilmSchoolRejects

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