No matter what screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt chose to do, they were always going to have plot problems with Olympus Has Fallen. Every time an authority figure makes a decision or a military unit performs a specific maneuver, most of the audience will second-guess it with comments like, “That would never happen in real life,” or even the dreaded, “Bullshit!” When you’re writing about the White House and the President of the United States, a location and individual everybody feels familiar with, believability will inevitably be an issue.
The largest plot hole I noticed was the AC-130 gunship flying lower over the National Mall mowing down pedestrians with its Gatling guns while simultaneously shooting down two F-22 Raptors. Where did the bad guys get an AC-130? Some backstory is filled in on who the bad guys are and what their motivation is, but as to how they acquired their arsenal of cutting edge surface-to-air munitions and the USAF marked aircraft, that is ignored.
President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is hosting the South Korean Prime Minister at a time when tensions at the DMZ are escalating; a situation which feels quite similar to today’s news. When all hell breaks loose outside, he is swiftly escorted to the below ground command center and taken hostage along with the rest of the country’s national security staff as the White House, code-named Olympus, is taken over by extremely well armed and trained combatants.
Thank goodness Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is working a desk job next door in the Treasury building. He used to be buddy-buddy with the President and his family as their main bodyguard until the First Lady (Ashley Judd) accidentally took a spill off an icy bridge in the film’s opening scene. No matter, Mike rushes into the White House guns blazing and is now a one man Army against the bad guys.
Exactly who the bad guys are and what they are about is merely an afterthought in the story. The script devotes hardly any time at all to their grievances; that would take away from hand-to-hand combat, next-generation weaponry, and throaty one-liners about promises of revenge. Safe from it all as an armchair quarterback is the Speaker of the House and now acting President, Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). He is surrounded by military brass and for some odd reason, the Director of the Secret Service, Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett).
At a time of national crisis, who else would you expect to sit right next to the President than the Secret Service Director? Her main job is to recite Banning’s resume and assure the room that her man in the White House is all they need. This is a prime example of the movie’s main fault; the writers crafted the script specifically for action, not logic. Decisions are made which are utterly ridiculous, yet they advance the plot to ensure the principal characters end up mono y mono at the end.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) ran with what he was given though. Downtown Washington D.C. realistically suffers through waves of destruction and the replica White House looks worse than it probably did after the War of 1812. Also, Melissa Leo in a small role as the Secretary of Defense has some noticeable fun with her limited time. The rest is paint by numbers. Gerard Butler and his bulging biceps pummel a heavily armed militia, Morgan Freeman’s soothing voice keeps everyone calm, and the crazy gadgets keep getting newer and more cutting edge.
There is nothing new in Olympus Has Fallen yet it will keep you engaged. Do your best to keep the second-guessing and plot hole bingo games to a minimum and you will find an average shoot-em-up somewhere in there.