Hard Man to the Rescue; Gerard Butler Goes in All Guns Blazing to Save the President in a Far-Fetched fantasyFILM OF THE WEEK

The Evening Standard (London, England), April 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Hard Man to the Rescue; Gerard Butler Goes in All Guns Blazing to Save the President in a Far-Fetched fantasyFILM OF THE WEEK


Byline: David Sexton

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN Cert 15, 120 mins IT'S NOT strictly true that there's only one Die Hard -- there have been five now. But there's still only one that really matters: the first. Die Hard cut the template for great action movies -- the lone hero taking back a whole building that has been seized by ruthless terrorists.

Olympus Has Fallen outrageously raises the stakes on that story. North Korean terrorists assault the White House (codename Olympus), from the air and the ground, and, thanks to subterfuge and treachery as well as comprehensive slaughter, they capture the President (lantern-jawed Aaron Eckhart) and hold him hostage in the underground bunker meant to ensure his safety. But they haven't counted on the presence in the ruined building of the one man who has the knowledge, ruthlessness and determination to stop them -- former Presidential bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), our hero.

Mike is raring to go, having fallen into disgrace through no fault of his own in the pre-credits sequence. On a wintry expedition from Camp David, the car carrying the President and his wife crashes on a bridge -- and as his bodyguard, Mike correctly saves the President first but fails to get to his wife in time. So he's stewing in a desk job at the Treasury when he sees the White House going up in smoke out of the window and dashes over to give his all.

The film shows the White House being taken down with a kind of fantastic effrontery -- yet after 9/11 we know that fantastic effrontery can succeed in the most catastrophic way, in reality as well as in the movies. Butler, coproducer as well as star, has said Continued on Page 34

The film couldn't make it plainer: he's only a B-grade action hero these days, compared to Gerard.

That America's enemy should be North Korea seems at first uncomfortably timely. At breakfast before his busy day Jack watches the TV news about missile tests and tension along the DMZ, just as we have all done recently -- and the terrorists demand withdrawal of US troops and the Fifth Fleet, before revealing a plan to subject the United States to nuclear devastation. "Your country will be a cold, dark wasteland -- now too America shall know suffering and famine!" gloats the baddie.

But there's no serious interest or intent. It's never made clear whether the attack has been commissioned by Pyongyang or not, while the terrorists actually infiltrate the White House in the guise of a South Korean mission, as if it's hard to remember the difference between them. …

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