Take a trip back in time to 1991 with Olympus Has Fallen. In a world where even John McClane has branched all the way out to Russia, Olympus Has Fallen is content with sticking to a straight rip-off of the very first Die Hard film. I bet you it’s been almost twenty years since a critic summarized an action movie by calling it "Die Hard in…" So grab onto your grunge hair and parachute pants, here we go: Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard in The White House.
There isn’t a single late 80s, early 90s action cliché rejected in Antoine "Training Day is my only decent film" Fuqua’s patriotic circle jerk 90s rethread schlockfest. Right off the bat, we start with the obligatory prologue setting up our action hero secret service agent Mike’s (Gerard Butler) big mistake that caused the life of a very important (and still very hot for her age) person.
This Cliffhanger beginning (Not a beginning that ends with a cliffhanger, but one that reminds us of the beginning of the Stallone movie Cliffhanger) is there solely to set up the fact that Mike has a lot to prove to the very white POTUS Benjamin (Aaron Eckhart). So when the North Korean terrorists, or renegade freedom fighter, or who gives a crap really, take over The White House, Mike is somehow the only one to save the president and regain his honor.
Olympus has Fallen is a glorious hunk of cheese delivered without a single hint of irony. It’s comfort food that’s distracting and doesn’t provide a single calorie of nourishment yet thinks of itself as a prime cut of fillet mignon with a side of gold-crusted lobster bisque (I’m not a food critic, this is as good as it gets). None of the tongue-in-cheek, self-referential humor from other 90s action rethreads like The Expendables movies is present here.
When Mike tells the troupe of respectable character actors hamming it up as serious government figures, “I’m the only hope ya got!”, none of them cracks up and says “Hey Mike, the 90s called, they want their one-liner back.” Same goes for the shameless rip-off of the brilliant Gruber-McClane scene in Die Hard where our hero doesn’t realize the friendly he bumped into is actually part of the terrorist organization.
I know I’m complaining and having fun here but if the goal was to create a good-ole-fashioned action romp that’s meant to tug on the heartstrings of the conservative audience (Let’s face it, they don’t get a lot in terms of pure Hollywood entertainment. If I had to sit through Atlas Shrugged part 1 and 2, I’d become a turncoat in a second) with shameless lingering shots of the American flag waving amongst the clouds, it’s really not THAT bad. As long as you know what you’re in for.
I know this is faint praise, but the initial White House attack scene that probably goes on for a good 10-15 minutes is actually, for lack of a better word, pretty sweet. It’s full of cheap CGI bloodshed, which is disappointing because you’d think a 90s-style action movie would use practical squibs, and tons of awesome explosions. I also have to admit that cool plane which could fire 5000 rounds-a-minute from its sides gave me a nice testosterone rush as well.
But after that point we find ourselves within the typical Die-Hard structure, counting down the minutes until we get the finale with the ticking time bomb attached to the ever-dependable red digital readout. Ah, things were so simple back then.