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'Olympus Has Fallen' Review

'Huawei': A foreshadowing name?

Chinesepod's Carlie discusses the meaning of the name 'Huawei' in light of the recent national security concerns of the Whitehouse

The release of Olympus Has Fallen marks the first “terrorists overtake the White House” movie of the year (the other is White House Down and is set for a June release). Olympus Has Fallen is a very by-the-book action movie, with few surprises and more than enough spilled blood and fired bullets to satiate any Call of Duty joneses. This movie is almost the best kind of bad as it is wholly enjoyable and laughable, entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Olympus Has Fallen follows the story of Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who, despite being loved by President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his son Connor and being heads above the rest at his job, is relieved of his duties due to an unfortunate car accident involving the president and his wife. Banning has moved to a desk job 18 months later only to witness a very orchestrated terrorist attack led by the infamous North Korean terrorist Kang (Rick Yune). Kang takes the president and his staff hostage in order to force the American government to remove its troops from the Korean demilitarized zone and to self-destruct the entirety of the USA’s nuclear arsenal in order for the country fall into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And, oh yeah, Morgan Freeman randomly appears as the acting president once Asher is taken. But come on, who is really going to see this movie for the story? The destroying of the nuclear arsenal is the cherry on top of the ridiculous sundae but no one can begrudge it of that. Interestingly enough the introductory scene in which the fateful accident occurs is pretty solid storytelling. There is clearly some dialogue thrown in that will be utilized later, especially between Connor and Banning, but all-in-all the movie starts off on fairly strong footing, which the movie quickly loses when the terrorist attack begins. What is unclear is if the movie takes itself seriously or not. I personally believe it wants to, or mostly tries to, but the addition of some hysterically ridiculous points – one of the hostages being dragged out to be shot begins reciting the pledge of allegiance – does muddy the waters a bit. Still, the movie does come down on the serious attempt side of things more often than not, which (unless Dylan McDermott is on screen), in my estimation, makes it all the more enjoyable. If it is meant to be a serious movie then director Antoine Fuqua continues his long fall from promising wunderkind (it has been quite a while since the over-the-top in all the right ways Training Day). The acting certainly contributes to the quality of the movie. It ranges from McDermott’s trumped up hamminess (he somehow manages to overact to astronomical degrees that were once unimaginable) to Freeman completely mailing it in (somewhere in his contract must be clauses that allow for 95% of all screen time to be sitting in a chair and to only do one take). Eckhart is actually charming in the beginning of the movie but lacks any presidential chops. Luckily Butler’s leading performance is surprisingly fun. Butler seems to be relishing his character and has a very tongue-in-cheek air about him that the other performances lack. In a movie that requires a ton of special effects they also fall flat. In fact the visuals lack that midsummer blockbuster sheen, which is probably a reason why it was released during the movie doldrums. The computerized graphics, of which there are many in the beginning, feel more akin to something you’d see in a video game than on the silver screen. Also included is a White House exterior set, which seems much less grand than the real life version and feels completely out of proportion. This wouldn’t be too noticeable if about a half hour of the movie did not include shots of the exterior of this faux-White House. The size of the lawn especially stands out. Olympus Has Fallen is the worst kind of entertaining. Instead of engrossing its viewer in its characters and story it is more fun to laugh at its ridiculousness and “not ready for primetime” production. However, Olympus Has Fallen is still a much better movie than an unenjoyably bad movie or the dreaded Film Production 101 mediocrity movies that are released in the early months of the year to die. It’s worth a rental on a night with nothing to do but in no way should this be appointment viewing.