Greetings again from the darkness. The tough road this film faces could be blamed on the unfortunate timing of release on the heels of a similar story in GUY RITCHIE’S THE COVENANT; however, that’s not the only reason the latest collaboration between Gerard Butler and director Ric Roman Waugh (ANGEL HAS FALLEN, GREENLAND) will likely struggle to find an audience. Other obstacles include a script with entirely too many storylines and character arcs that dead end, as well as an overall lack of intensity when it was necessary.
Since the script was written by Mitchell LaFortune, and drawn on his personal experience as a Military Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan, the lack of intensity and danger is quite surprising. Gerald Butler does Gerald Butler things here. He has patented this type of character in the same manner that Liam Neeson has perfected his familiar action hero. This time, Butler plays CIA Operative Tom Harris, whom we first see working at gunpoint to assist in bombing an Iranian nuclear facility. When his mission is exposed by a whistleblower through a female British journalist (Elnaaz Norouzi), it seems half of the middle east is contracted to kill him … and the reporter herself is kidnapped.
Soon Harris’ handler (Travis Fimmel, LEAN ON PETE) throws enough money at Harris to motivate him to perform one more mission before he heads home to a graduating daughter and a divorce-seeking wife. This “one last job” means Harris and his new interpreter “Mo” (Navid Negahban, “Homeland”) are on a road trip through the desert trying not to get killed as Mo searches for his missing sister-in-law. There are some cool drone shots showing the endless miles of desert desolation and some night vision goggle sequences that are better than what we’ve seen before, but the big-time weaponry doesn’t make up for too many characters and crummy music. To his credit, director Waugh doesn’t lean on an excess of action sequences.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the movie is that it was actually filmed in Saudi Arabia. Of course, that parcel of rare trivia doesn’t make up for the feeling that this film is just a bit too familiar with too many unfinished story lines.
Greetings again from the darkness. Gerard Butler doesn’t always make wise decisions when picking his projects. In the right role, men admire him for being cool and tough, while women are enchanted with his charm. The role of Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is just about perfect for Butler. He not only gets to be an action hero, but he also has a solid relationship (with Radha Mitchell) and is a role model for the President’s young son. Butler is so nearly perfect here, he should be cast in the next Old Spice commercial.
The movie starts out with the backstory on how Agent Mike Banning (Butler) fell out of grace with the President and was reassigned to a desk job at Treasury. Pushing paper is like Siberia for a man of Banning’s make-up. A terrorist invasion on the White House tosses Banning right smack in the middle of a violent and explosive act designed to leave the entire United States decimated. Circumstances being what they are, Banning is the only hope.
Movies like this must have a quality bad guy. We get icy Rick Yune as Yang, a North Korean criminal mastermind. You might think this is extremely timely given the real world in North Korea, but Yune is certainly no Governmental official. The attack is very well planned and leaves Yune locked in the White House security bunker with the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense (a spunky Melissa Leo). At the Pentagon, this leaves the Secretary of State (Morgan Freeman) and a bombastic General (Robert Forster) jockeying for control. Angela Bassett is there to referee. As movie goers we are accustomed to seeing Morgan Freeman as God, as the President, and as the brains behind Batman. Secretary of State seems a step backwards career-wise, so it’s a relief when he assumes Presidential control. While this group of officials sits around looking anxious and worried, Agent Banning is a one man wrecking crew against the terrorists.
The images of the White House being attacked will prove quite disturbing to any US citizen and the sequence comes off as something that could possibly occur. Let’s hope director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) performed sufficient research to know this attack couldn’t actually happen. Still, Aaron Eckhart is a believable President … in the Harrison Ford (Air Force One) mode, tough as nails but also intelligent.
There are of course similarities to Clint Eastwood’s 1993 film In The Line of Fire, and many are comparing it to the 1988 classic Die Hard. For me, the difference in Gerard Butler’s Mike Banning and Bruce Willis’ John McClane is that Butler is the right guy in a bad place, while McClane was a good guy in the wrong place. The action sequences in Olympus Has Fallen are even bigger than Die Hard, and it’s certainly clear there is much more at stake.
The cast also includes Dylan McDermott and Ashley Judd. Without giving anything away, I’ll admit this is my favorite Ashley Judd role of all time. It will be interesting to see how this one compares to Roland Emmerich’sWhite House Down, which comes out in June. The story lines are almost identical with WHD starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. Olympus Has Fallenis a very satisfactory action movie, with many traditional elements, and Butler has re-established himself as a real movie star. It’s doubtful Emmerich’s version will stand up against this one.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are an Action movie fan OR you want to see Gerard Butler in the perfect Gerard Butler role
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: watching the White House get attacked is something you prefer not to see even if it’s only a movie
Greetings again from the darkness. Movies based on true stories and real people tend to receive the benefit of the doubt from me, even when they exaggerate those truths and characters. At the beginning of the movie, Sam Childers is an ex-con, druggie, gun-loving drug dealer, thug, lousy dad, worse husband, and overall man of failed character. When he finds God, he loses the drugs but the only other thing that really changes is his postal address. All of that is based on the real life Childers.
Sam Childers sees himself as a modern day crusader working to make a better life for the war orphans in Sudan. It’s impossible to argue that he hasn’t had an impact on lives. The real question is, at what cost and by what methods? Over the closing credits, we even get a clip of the real Sam asking us “does it matter how?”.
You will find no debate here for whether or not this man has made a difference or whether his methods should be judged. This space is merely for analyzing the movie which is telling a story. Gerard Butler does an admirable job making Sam a somewhat sympathetic character. Re-read my first paragraph if you think that’s easy! Michelle Monaghan plays Lynn, his incredibly supportive wife who actually helped Sam find God, rather than continue his criminal, drug-addled ways with friend Donnie (Michael Shannon).
While I found the story of the Sudanese children to be heart-breaking, the choppy and fragmented manner in which it’s presented was quite annoying. The story began in 1998 but we never really knew what year it was or how much time had passed between Sam’s trips home. Many of the gun battle scenes came across very staged and set-up for a cool shot of Butler brandishing a weapon and bandanna. The photo at left is Gerald Butler discussing a scene with Sam Childers.
The production value of the film is surprising considering it’s directed by Marc Foster, who has many fine films to his credit (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland). While watching, I had the feeling that there must have been some omitted scenes, and others were edited to the point of being nearly incoherent.
So while I found the story to be quite interesting, I found the delivery to be less than adequate. This despite fine performances from Butler, Monaghan, Shannon, Kathy Baker and Madeline Carroll. There are numerous magazine articles about Sam Childers and I believe you will find those more accurate and informative.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are up for an interesting story about a fascinating real life man, and you can overlook the shoddy presentation OR you just want to see Gerald Butler looking cool with a machine gun!
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you would rather read an article about the real life Sam Childers than watch chopped up version of his story.