Gerard Butler, left, stars as a former Secret Service agent who tries to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) in “Olympus Has Fallen.” (Phil Caruso)
There have been numerous spins on the "Die Hard" formula over the years, but "Olympus Has Fallen" offers something we haven't seen before: "Die Hard" in the White House. Ha! And they say Hollywood is out of ideas.
(Well, maybe Hollywood is out of ideas, since the idea will be repeated this summer with "White House Down.") But as far as "Die Hards" go, "Olympus Has Fallen" is pretty good, and is worlds more exciting and involving than this year's dismal "A Good Day to Die Hard."
"Olympus" centers on Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), an ex-Secret Service agent who tries to save the president after terrorists take over the White House. The takeover sequence is detailed, graphic and deeply unsettling, with director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") reveling in bringing down our nation's most important landmark. Watching the White House get blown to smithereens by alien lasers in "Independence Day" was a dumb escapist thrill, but this scene — which plays out over 30-or-so-odd tense minutes — is unnervingly real and horrifically violent to boot.
From there, "Olympus" falls into its "Die Hard" mannerisms — entire scenes and situations are ripped straight from the original film — and Butler wears his action hero armor well. He's strong, charming and cocky, but has a sincerity that allows him to be more than a winking, quipping muscle head.
Fuqua's initial mocking of America's perceived security weaknesses gives way to extreme, over-the-top patriotism at the movie's end, but his talented cast (including Aaron Eckhart as the president and Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House) keeps things from veering too far off track.
"Olympus Has Fallen" goes through plenty of familiar motions, but does them well enough that it gets away with it. There's a reason movies like this die hard.