Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Morgan Freeman Week: Olympus Has Fallen

Morgan Freeman Week continues...

Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
2013. Rated R, 120 minutes.
Gerard Butler
Aaron Eckhart
Morgan Freeman
Rick Yune
Angela Bassett
Dylan McDermott
Finley Jacobsen
Robert Forster
Melissa Leo
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Ashley Judd

When the limousine carrying President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) and his wife (Judd) is involved in an accident Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) reacts immediately and saves the Commander-in-Chief's life. Unfortunately, he cannot rescue the First Lady. Even though the two men are friends, the president has Banning transferred to a desk job so that he doesn't have to be reminded of what happened whenever he sees his face. Fast forward eighteen months and President Asher and his son Connor (Jacobsen) appear to have adjusted as well as possible. Still, as presidents must, he's dealing with another crisis. This one involves meeting with the South Korean president to discuss how to keep their neighbors to the north at bay. If you guessed that the North Koreans crash this little party with guns blazing, give yourself a cookie. No extra points for guessing they put a pretty good hurtin' on our nation's capital, White House included. The Prez is taken to his bunker, but yeah, there are bad guys there, too. Okay, you only get one shot at this one. Guess who is the only person who can save the day? So yeah, Agent Banning spots all the mayhem from his office window and springs into action.

Typical of just about every movie where a foreign entity invades the U.S., we get an exercise in flag waving. We also get an oversimplification of our place in the world, at least from our point of view. It's all America good, everyone else evil, or weak. With this comes hokey dialogue, faceless villains from whatever country we think is most dangerous to us when the film is made, and lots of hand-wringing over what our heroes' next move should be. Anyone expecting anything more is setting themselves up for disappointment.

Even with expectations properly set, there are some less than exemplary aspects to Olympus Has Fallen. For starters, Pres. Asher comes across as less brave than his subordinates and explicitly goes against the only policy the movie bothers to mention: The United States will not negotiate with terrorists. Part of the plot is the North Koreans trying to gain access to a system that will effectively shut down all of America's nukes. To do this they need three codes which three separate people, all in the bunker, including the president, have one each. When the others are pressed a bit, he immediately caves and implores them to give up the goods. What the movie wants us to think is that he's saving the lives of those with him and is even willing to sacrifice himself. This is why he says to both, when he tells them to spill the beans, "They'll never get mine!" In reality, he's giving up our nation's security without much of a fight even though it's painfully obvious the bad guys can't just kill these people and accomplish their objectives.

Another issue is that our villains willfully put themselves in position to be defeated. We're told, without qualification, that no one can get into the president's bunker. As I mentioned, every person the North Koreans need is already in there with them. Everything they want is at their fingertips. Why keep talking to those who have assumed power in the president's absence? By the way, that person is Morgan Freeman and Speaker-of-the-House Trumbull. More tactically important, why send anyone out, or open the door for any reason until the mission is complete? If I'm the bad guys, whatever Banning is doing outside is largely irrelevant. I've got whatever need in the bunker with me and he can't get to me. Of course, that would make this a far different movie, so I understand why it was done. It just makes them look stupid, and in turn, the movie looks this way, too.

Without some idiocy by the villains, the movie wouldn't have as much of what it does best: action. There is plenty of it. During it, star Gerard Butler kicks all sorts of ass. In other words, people looking for a shoot 'em up get what they came for. It's all well done with lots of casualties on both sides. This keeps the movie entertaining even if it is eye-roll worthy. Things speed by pretty quickly as they go boom left and right. Yup, Washington DC is torn up good. All in all, it's similar to the recent remake of Red Dawn. That doesn't even take into account the apparent similarities it has to a movie I haven't even seen yet, but will soon, White House Down. OHF has loads of chest thumping patriotism, explosions, gunfights, and problems with its plot.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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