Eighteen months ago the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart) was preparing to attend a function with the First Lady (Ashley Judd) and his young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen), though not before he donned his boxing gloves and sparred with his favourite Secret Service Agent, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). Once they had finished that, they were driven out into the night, where the snowstorm was growing ever thicker, and as it was nearly Christmas the President's wife gave him a watch as a present, but just as they were bathing in the glow of their marriage, a tree hit their limousine and it was sent crashing into the side of a bridge...
Fast forward to the present day, and poor old Mike has lost his favoured status because he is widely blamed for not saving the First Lady when the car dropped into the icy river below. Though he did save the President, which apparently counted for nothing, as he is swiftly demoted to a desk job by the time we catch up with him, but rest assured he is about to have his time in the sun once more, and that's thanks to his ability with extreme violence. Yes, if even half the security around The White House was as efficient at slaughtering the enemy as Banning was, this movie would have been a hell of a lot shorter.
What he, and the combined forces of the United States, have to contend with is a contingent of North Korean terrorists, seemingly picked because the filmmakers didn't have the courage to make the bad guys the sort of people who actually did carry out terrorist attacks on their soil, that was Islamic fundamentalists and highly paranoid right wingers with access to weaponry, which may or may not be interconnected when you boiled it down. In spite of the Koreans having the blame pinned on them here, we could tell what the movie was really alluding to when the Washington Monument was struck by a plane and collapsed not unlike a certain pair of towers of a certain genuine terrorist attack over a decade before this was released.
You could accuse this of tasteleness, but Olympus Has Fallen (not another Clash of the Titans reboot as you may have thought from that title) was merely taking its cue from countless other blockbusters of its century where watching the status quo dismantled through force was a cathartic experience for the audience, or that was the idea. Yet what this tapped into was the guilty pleasure status of the eighties action movie where Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris or one of those musclebound guys took on the might of the Communist aggressors and well and truly came up the victor. Which was why many fans of that era's dumbest flicks found themselves warming to this.
Butler growled his way through his Bruce Willis in Die Hard in The White House role with two-fisted aplomb, it wasn't much of a stretch for him but he was physical enough to make you glad he wasn't appearing in yet another horrendous romcom. He was supported by a cast of veterans playing the government staff, leading with Morgan Freeman drafted in as the Speaker to take over when the North Koreans assault the heart of the nation and hold the President hostage in his bunker. We can tell head baddie Rick Yune is truly evil when we realise he was wearing glasses - but didn't really need them! The cad! Although he's not as vile as the double crosser who reveals himself to be worse than a Communist terrorist, he's a secret liberal, not what Banning will tolerate once he twigs what is going on. Director Antoine Fuqua made a bid for blockbuster success by making the explosions and gunfire his most important characters, and unless you didn't care to see a middle-aged woman beaten up on the blood and thunder level it passed the time adequately; just please don't take it seriously. Music by Trevor Morris.