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Antoine Fuqua
Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott , Finley Jacobsen, Rick Yune, Angela Bassett
Writing Credits:
Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt

We are never stronger than when we are tested.

Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.

Box Office:
$70 million.
Opening Weekend
$30.373 million on 3098 screens.
Domestic Gross
$98.895 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Eng;ish Audio Description Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 8/13/2013

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Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 29, 2013)

Back in the 90s, we got a plethora of Die Hard-style films. We had Die Hard on a bus, Die Hard on a boat, Die Hard on a plane - you name it.

We even found Die Hard with a US president! Though the Commander in Chief kicks less butt this time, 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen revisits the political venue – which we re-revisited with July 2013’s similarly themed White House Down.

Even before I saw it, I knew that Down had to be better than Olympus. It might not be the year’s biggest action disappointment – ironically, 2013’s official Die Hard movie seems to have a lock on that dishonor – but Olympus still stinks.

On a snowy evening, President Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart) heads to a campaign event with wife Margaret (Ashley Judd) and son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) in tow. The slippery conditions lead to a road accident that leaves the First Lady dead. Even though lead Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) acted appropriately, the president associates him with Margaret’s demise and banishes Mike to a desk job.

A few months later, North Korean radicals led by terrorist Yeonsak Kang (Rick Yune) – and abetted by former Secret Service agent David Forbes (Dylan McDermot) – assault the White House and take the president captive. During the mayhem, Banning manages to gain entry into the White House and seeks to rescue the president in the midst of an international crisis.

What if they made a Michael Bay movie and didn’t invite Michael Bay? What if they made a Michael Bay movie so bad that Michael Bay would only be able to shake his head with disgust if he saw it?

If that happened, Olympus Has Fallen would be the result. If not for the use of various modern digital devices, I’d believe that they shot Olympus in the late 90s and left it on the shelf until now. The movie acts as a total throwback; with its strong Die Hard influence and copious use of Bay’s patented cinematic techniques, it feels like 1998 all over again.

While it remains unfashionable to admit this, I always liked “classic Bay”, as I thought flicks like The Rock and Armageddon achieved what they set out to do. Olympus, on the other hand, offers such a thin, idiotic affair that it becomes impossible to muffle laughs along the way.

From almost literally the first scene, the movie smothers us with its stupidity. While I don’t expect perfect realism from a flick like this, I’d like some feeling of verisimilitude, which Olympus completely lacks. It starts at Christmas time – and discusses the rough campaign trail. Granted, politics never sleep, but it still seems incongruous that the president would be in serious vote-mongering mode at that time of the year – heck, even if we’re supposed to believe that the primaries will occur soon, it’s unlikely the president would be so entrenched in campaign mode so early in the process.

That might be nit picking, but the odd characterizations become more jarring. Olympus comes with a genuinely awesome cast; in addition to those already mentioned, we find talents such as Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, and Melissa Leo.

So how come not a single one can create a believable personality? I don’t think any of them even try; they go through the action flick motions and never attempt anything more than stock melodrama.

Not that I can blame them, as the utterly braindead screenplay leaves the actors little room to succeed. The first produced script from writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, I hope the pair can do something more creative and intelligent next time.

Heck, I’d settle for a screenplay that wasn’t actively, insultingly idiotic. Yeef, barely a minute passes in Olympus without a serious “WTF” moment. Each and every scenario seems absurd and unbelievable, and to maintain these situations, each and every character must act like the dumbest person who ever lived.

Granted, I understand that the simple notion of a White House taken over by terrorists sounds like a stretch. In the years since 9/11, we’ve expanded our ideas of what’s believable in that realm, but I still think it’d be next to impossible for a situation ala this one to occur – especially given how easily the terrorists execute their plan. The Three Stooges would’ve put up a better fight than the soldiers depicted in the film.

And it gets worse from there. Olympus offers one preposterous scenario after another and asks us to believe them. I can take the “one man against an army” concept inherent to the Die Hard series and its imitators; while those get farfetched, I can swallow them.

But I can’t accept major leaders who act in ways that make no sense whatsoever. Say what you want about the current political quagmire – I still don’t think we’d ever see people make as many idiotic choices as we need to accept in Olympus. These people aren’t smart enough to brush their own teeth, much less gain substantial political office.

It doesn’t help that Olympus actively steals from its source. If you take a drink every time you see a scene clearly ripped off from Die Hard, you’ll be blotto by the end of Olympus. While prior Die Hard-influenced films have made their roots clear, I can’t think of any that copped material so blatantly; it’s like Rothenberger and Benedikt just dusted off an old Die Hard script and changed the names.

I hate to be the smug guy who snickers at dramatic movies, but I couldn’t help myself during Olympus. It comes with so many unintentionally comedic moments that it almost plays like parody. I don’t think it’s supposed to offer a spoof, but it sure seems like one. The moments that attempt to be funny flop – as they all feel like cliché action movie one-liners – and the serious bits turn hilarious. How can I not laugh at the sight of Melissa Leo as she shouts the Pledge of Allegiance on the way to her potential demise?

I don’t know how movies this bad get made. Did those involved think they were doing something creative or exciting during the shoot? Didn’t anyone realize the utter depths of idiocy to which their film fell?

I can’t answer those questions, but this I know: Olympus is a thoroughly terrible action film. It offers next to no redeeming value as it subjects us to one of the most absurd and idiotic tales displayed on the big screen.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus D-

Olympus Has Fallen appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 sets. Olympus delivered a pretty nice SD-DVD presentation.

Sharpness was good for the format. Some inevitable softness materialized at times, but that related to the limitations of SD-DVD more than anything else. Overall definition seemed more than satisfactory. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws failed to mar the presentation; it always was clean and fresh.

Colors looked fine. The film opted for a stylized palette, with an emphasis on teal. Within those parameters, the hues were well-reproduced. Blacks came across as dark and firm, while shadows were pretty good. Some interiors seemed a little murky, but those shots weren’t too off-putting. Overall, this was a pleasing image.

I felt even more impressed by the lively Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Olympus, as it offered enough pizzazz to merit “A”-level consideration. The soundfield created a terrific sense of place and threw out fine action when appropriate. The movie’s various fight/pyrotechnic sequences boasted vivid material that showed up around the spectrum in a lively manner.

Other aspects of the track satisfied as well. Music always offered good stereo imaging, and quieter scenes were convincing, too. These showed a clear sense of place and meshed together in a pleasing way.

Audio quality always excelled. Effects were dynamic and clear, with deep bass and good punch. Music showed similar strengths, as the score was lively and full. Speech came across as natural and concise. I liked this track and thought it added a lot to the movie.

The disc opens with ads for Insidious Chapter 2, Dead Man Down and Evil Dead (2013). Under Previews, we also get promos for Parker and The Kings of Summer. No trailer for Olympus - or any other extras – can be found here.

Of 2013’s two “Die Hard in the White House” films, Olympus Has Fallen made the most money but I thought it offered the less satisfying experience. Idiotic, trite and often cringe-worthy, the movie lacks even the most basic entertainment value. The DVD comes with good picture and audio but includes no supplements. Skip this stinker and watch some other Die Hard wannabe instead.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.7777 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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