Nashville On Stage: Olympus Has Fallen

Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart in Olympus Has Fallen.

Summer has come early this year (at least in movie theatres) with the first summer blockbuster, Olympus Has Fallen. Get an extra large popcorn, because  Olympus… is a huge action flick with suspense, multiple explosions, a really high body count, running, falling—and did I mention the violence? So that about assures an audience of 30-and-under-adult-males, but the film is also going to be a big hit with many, in part, because of its patriotic timeliness.

Now that North Korea’s most recent ‘Great Leader’ is rattling his saber, shaking his fists, and threatening nuclear war, Olympus Has Fallen (with Korean terrorists attacking Washington, D.C. and kidnapping the president) seems to appear from nowhere. The spot-on timing was accidental, but the money Olympus… is taking in (over $71 million and counting) proves the producers were in the right place at the right time.

Olympus… shifts our attention away from national security threats in Iraq, Afghanistan and Islamic terrorists to that little ‘Korean problem’ ending with an uneasy truce in 1953 with no clear-cut winner. In Olympus Has Fallen, we encounter a fictional North Korean nutcase—a Korean terrorist named Kang (Rick Yune) who wants to take America down, starting with the destruction of much of D.C. This guy enters the nation’s capital in disguise, makes big threats, kidnaps the president, and blows things up. If this film can’t get your patriotic blood boiling, then nothing can.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is a tough Secret Service agent who’s been demoted to a desk job after loyally guarding the president and being a White House insider. Months earlier he saved President Ben Asher’s (played by Aaron Eckhart) life in a car accident but was unable to rescue the president’s wife (Ashley Judd). Having Banning near the Oval Office brings back too many painful memories for the president—hence Banning’s ‘demotion’ to the nearby Treasury Dept.

From his desk at the Treasury, Banning has a front row seat to watch the unexpected and highly coordinated attack of North Korean terrorists on the White House. Kang has disguised himself as an aid to the visiting prime minister of South Korea, positioning himself inside the White House. When the smoke settles on the Korean terrorist’s attack, Banning finds himself the only loyal American left alive and armed inside the White House. He must rescue the president’s son, save the president, and save the world from a descent into war.

That about wraps up the depth of the plot, but remember this is an action film, so don’t go expecting meaningful plot twists. Olympus… is more about tension and explosions.

The terrorist attack on the White House takes place in coordinated layers, emphasizing just how vulnerable freedom can be. Airplanes are bursting into flame; the Washington Monument is crumbling; cars are being crushed by large vehicles; and helicopters are spinning out of control. Everything is blowing up. The White House is smoldering, and the nation’s highest-ranking officials (president, vice-president, and various secretaries of this-that-and-the-other) are being held for ransom in a bunker.

But Banning uses his knowledge of the secret passages, nooks and crannies of the White House to give Kang a run for his North Korean yen. Secret Service weapons are readily available to Banning, but he is also more than capable of taking down Kang’s ninja-style minions with his fists. Meanwhile, as Asher and his top officials are held hostage in the White House bunker, the South Korean prime minister is killed—but not before Agent Roma (Cole Hauser) alerts head of Secret Service Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) that “Olympus has fallen.”

As he rushes against the clock, Banning stays in close contact with former Speaker of the House, now Acting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). Honesty check: Freeman is really the only reason I had any interest in this film, since I’m not a great fan of action movies. But I am a huge Morgan Freeman fan. However, Freeman’s character doesn’t come off looking so great here since Speaker/Acting President Trumball makes some pretty bad calls. Nevertheless, Morgan Freeman is as magnificent as ever in a medium-sized role.

But it’s Gerard Butler’s movie, and he’s going to be a formidable action star—though I’d prefer someone with more of a sense of humor like Bruce Willis from ‘back in the day.’

All the explosive mayhem and ‘salty’ language earns the movie an ‘R’ rating—but the violence isn’t as gory as many action and horror films these days. There’s no sexuality, so take that for what it’s worth.