'Olympus Has Fallen'
Having not seen White House Down yet, I'm not sure whether Olympus Has Fallen is more 2013's answer to Dante's Peak or Volcano. I am sure that it's an entertaining little romp, though, even if it is about as brainless as an action movie can possibly be.
Gerard Butler plays Secret Service agent Mike Banning who is removed from President Benjamin Asher's personal detail after he saves his life during a snowy car wreck at the expense of his wife's. Banning's tragic decision turns in to a stroke of good fortune months later when Korean terrorists take the White House by force and take Asher, who is played by Aaron Eckhart, hostage along with several members of his senior staff.
The terrorists are led by Rick Yune's Kang, a double agent who seeks to activate "Cerebrus," a fail-safe mechanism that will detonate all of the United States' nuclear weapons in their silos if activated by three members of the government with, presumably, the highest level of clearance. As Kang and his cohorts methodically wipe out all the obstacles in their way at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Banning emerges as the only hope to halt a nuclear holocaust. Convenient then that he has intimate knowledge of the White House's floor plans.
There's a lot of convenience to be had in Olympus Has Fallen. There's very little that's original here -- it essentially distills the appeal of Air Force One and Independence Day in to a tight package, stirring the most base instincts of patriotism along the way. But its tried-and-trueness is well executed. Good luck not pulling for Butler as he takes on a terrorist mastermind. Good luck trying to fully detest a film that features decent performances from familiar supporting stars Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott and Angela Bassett.
The third act is a complete hash, almost certainly because the "Cerebrus" MacGuffin can't stand up to even a little bit of scrutiny and it ends up factoring heavily in to the climax of the film, a gross miscalculation on the part of director Antoine Fuqua and writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. (I would have drawn out the drama with President Asher's son more.) I thought one of the few things our elected officials could actually agree upon was to not negotiate with terrorists. It's odd then that negotiating with them figures so heavily in the plot.
Some of the details were laughably sloppy -- most memorably when a fake newscast refers to Korea as part of "SE Asia." But I didn't watch Olympus Has Fallen for a geography lesson. I watched it to be mindlessly entertained for a little while, and it delivers just that for the most part.