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.
One of the great virtues of the Die Hard
action movie model is its compactness, with the limited surroundings giving filmmakers license to explore--and often detonate--every nook, cranny, and air duct of a confined space. The techno thriller Olympus Has Fallen
doesn't deviate much from the established lone wolf/terrorist formula, but the White House setting adds a definite kick to the proceedings. Even when the plot starts to get a bit too implausible, the novelty of seeing, say, a knife fight in the Lincoln bedroom keeps it humming right along. Following a tragic prologue set at Camp David, the film wastes little time in getting to the main event, as the president (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff are held hostage by an army of mercenaries. Enter Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a former Secret Service agent with deadly knowledge of the Oval Office's crawlspaces and ambush spots. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day
) keeps the proceedings lean and fairly mean, with a sense of geography that allows the audience to clearly see the succession of national landmarks getting blown up real good. The director also makes expert use of an unusually qualified supporting cast, including Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and especially Melissa Leo, who goes way, way beyond the call of duty as the secretary of defense. The film's ace in the hole, however, proves to be the amusingly surly Butler, whose habit of issuing oddly specific threats of bodily harm lends an unexpected touch of black comedy to the final act. Any good guy can take out a bad guy, but how many call the shot beforehand? --Andrew Wright