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Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/13/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/26/2013

When Die Hard debuted in 1988 it was a huge hit, and suddenly everyone in Hollywood was scrambling to be in the Die Hard business. Movie houses were inundated with films in which a group of armed bandits overtook a location and it was up to one unprepared man to take care of business. We saw these stories occur in many locations to the point where someone, and I would give credit where credit is due if I could remember who, said that they were expecting "Die Hard in a hot air balloon". To this day, we still get movies which resemble Die Hard (oddly, A Good Day to Die Hard did not feel like a Die Hard movie). Yet, with all of these copy-cat films, no one thought of setting Die Hard in the White House...until now. I present to you Olympus Has Fallen.

Olympus Has Fallen opens at Camp David, the Presidential retreat, at Christmastime. President Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his wife, Margaret (Ashley Judd), are preparing to attend a party, along with their young son, Connor (Finley Jacobsen). Watching over them is Secret Service operative Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), who is very close to the family. However, on the way to the party, tragedy strikes on an icy road. The story then jumps ahead 18 months. Mike now works for the Treasury Department (doing what, we aren't sure, but he still carries a gun), but he really wants to return to the Secret Service. As a delegation from South Korea visits the White House, a plane suddenly attacks Washington, D.C., destroying monuments and killing civilians, a group of armed men swarm the White House. Hearing this, Mike runs to the scene. As Asher is taken to an underground bunker, Mike enters the White House to take on the bad guys. As the only American inside, he's now become the President's only hope for survival.

Boy, when someone decided to make "Die Hard in the White House", they really ran with it. Perhaps screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt thought that after 25 years people had forgotten the specifics of Die Hard or, more likely, they were too young to have even seen the classic. Either way, there are parts of Olympus Has Fallen which follow Die Hard almost scene for scene. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that some parallels are things like the authorities on the outside not trusting/listening to Banning, a helicopter incident, meeting an unknown enemy, and, of course, talking trash to the terrorists. At times, I felt as if I was watching an unauthorized Die Hard sequel or remake. Unfortunately, when compared to Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen simply doesn't measure up. Obviously, the fact that many elements feel borrowed doesn't help, but, for lack for a better word, the movie is missing Die Hard's attitude. The film is sorely in need of some levity and Butler's dialogue when talking to the terrorists is so bad that it's laughable. Instead of attempting to top "Yippee-Ki-Yay...", they have Banning ramble threats which go nowhere.

But, if you can get past all of that, Olympus Has Fallen is actually a pretty solid action thriller. The movie gets points taking full advantage of its R-rating. The scene in which the plane flies through D.C. killing innocent bystanders doesn't pull any punches and it made me sit up and take notice. From then on, we watch Banning thoroughly abuse anyone who gets in his way, and the action rarely lets up. The movie also gets points for having Banning arm himself to the teeth before he goes to find the President -- no running out of bullets for him. The film does a nice mob of mixing up gunfights with hand-to-hand combat and people keep making the mistake of pulling a knife on Banning. There really aren't any plot twists here per-se and the story remains pretty linear, but there's enough variety and enough scenes with those on the outside (Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and Robert Forster) to keep things interesting.

With the recent films of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenneger, and Sylvester Stallone, there's been a lot of talk of a return to an 80s action move aesthetic. I'm not sure about those other movies, but Olympus Has Fallen certainly comes close. Yes, it's loud and dumb and full of plot-holes (the soldiers outside of The White House are told to stay away, but the movie reaches a point where it's clearly safe for them to enter and they still stay back), but if you're in the mood for a "one-man army" type film, this is one of the best examples that I've seen in years.

Olympus Has Fallen made Roland Emmerich jealous on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail and depth is the best that one could hope for from a Blu-ray Disc. Having said that, the picture is soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The audio during the action scenes is very well done. The gunfire pours through the front and rear channels and it is very detailed, as we can often distinctly hear the various shots and explosions. The subwoofer is powerful and really adds to the action scenes. However, the dynamic range could have used some work as the dialogue is muffled at times. Maybe I've been spoiled by Blu-ray Discs, but I had to turn the volume up higher than usual and turn on the subtitles in order to catch everything.

The Olympus Has Fallen DVD contains no extra features.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.