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Movie Review: "Olympus Has Fallen"

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- From Antoine Fuqua, the director of Training Day, comes Olympus Has Fallen, a somewhat familiar tale starring Gerard Butler.  Familiar, because it was great the first time I saw it, when it was called Die Hard.

Here, instead of Bruce Willis' John McClane, we have Gerard Butler's Mike Banning, who, when we first him, is the head of the president’s Secret Service detail.  A freak car accident kills the first lady and Mike blames himself.  Eighteen months later, he’s got some other job at the Treasury Department, while the president is hosting the prime minister of South Korea.  

That's when the White House is attacked by what appears to be a B-52 bomber or some other sort of World War II-era plane, followed by a ground assault.  The president, vice-president, secretary of defense and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are taken hostage, held personally by the mastermind behind the attack, Kang (Rick Yune), the head of a North Korean terrorist group.

Banning, who witnessed the attack from blocks away, manages to make his way to the White House, engage enemy combatants, kill a few along the way and sneak inside the building itself, code-named “Olympus.” In the meantime, Morgan Freeman’s speaker of the house is now acting president, and Banning is the only hope he’s got.

Further similarities between Olympus Has Fallen and Die Hard?  The kidnapped president, played by Aaron Eckhardt, is essentially John McClane's wife Holly Gennaro, while Kang and one other character I won’t name (it would be a spoiler) combine to make German terrorist Hans Gruber.  If you haven't guessed by now, the White House stands in as Nakatomi Plaza.  In fact, there’s a moment in Olympus Has Fallen that's so similar to the scene in Die Hard in which Gruber and John McClane meet, you’re sure to elbow the person sitting next to you and exclaim, “This is Die Hard.”

OK, so while Olympus Has Fallen may be a Die Hard rip-off, the good news is, it’s a decent rip-off -- better, in fact, than the majority of official Die Hard sequels.  Though brutally violent, Olympus Has Fallen is a well-done, crowd-pleasing, cathartic action thriller.

Three-and-a-half out of five stars.

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