Susan Granger's review of 'Olympus Has Fallen'
Think of this violent action-thriller as "Die Hard in the White House," as one lone former presidential guard redeems himself from shame and disgrace by singlehandedly saving the United States of America.
The travails of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) begin 18 months earlier at Camp David where -- on an icy bridge en route to a billionaire's Christmas party -- there's a horrific accident, resulting in the death of the first lady (Ashley Judd). Although the tragedy was not his fault, Banning is banished from White House detail and demoted to desk duty. Cut to the present, as South Korean diplomats are being welcomed by President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. At the same time, a mysterious C-130 enters D.C. air space and launches a ferocious attack on the city. Half the Washington Monument crumbles. Olympus (the Secret Service code name for the White House) is invaded by trained commandos, led by Kang (Rick Yune) a diabolical North Korean terrorist.
Following protocol, the president, vice president (Phil Austin) and secretary of defense (Melissa Leo) are secured in an underground bunker, but treachery abounds as they're held hostage. Across town, in the Situation Room, the Secret Service director (Angela Bassett) summons the speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) to take over as acting president. Meanwhile, rushing to rescue POTUS and his young son Connor (Finley Jacobson) is brawny, ex-Special Forces pro Banning, who manages outwit, outmaneuver and outfight every gunman in this path.
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Patriotically scripted by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt and strikingly directed by Anton Fuqua ("Training Day"), the formulaic story revolves around a guilt-ridden hero facing his own inner demons while trying to fight the enemy, but what remains are indelible images of chaos and destruction in our nation's capital. Sure, it's CGI -- but, after the reality of 9/11, it's nonetheless terrifying.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Olympus Has Fallen" is a solidly tense, suspenseful 7, reaping the rewards of being released before Roland Emmerich's similarly themed "White House Down" in June.