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See ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ for action-packed fun

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Last year, we were mistreated to not one, but two Snow White flicks that people scratched their heads over. I know, as if one wasn’t bad enough, they gave us a second. Nothing we can do about it now. Once the movies came out, it was clear that they were intended for two different audiences: one for the kids and families, and one for the older teen and adult crowds. This year, we seem to have the same trend on our hands. “Olympus Has Fallen” and “White House Down” are two films with different styles, characters and budgets, but the premise is almost identical. Both films feature a terrorist attack on the White House, with the president being put at risk and in danger of losing the entire country to the attackers. But hold on, there’s a man on the inside ready to take action by taking out these invaders one by one and rescuing our great American landmark.

“White House Down” is a Roland Emmerich film starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx that will be released this June, so for now I’ll be talking about “Olympus Has Fallen”. “Olympus” stars Gerard Butler as a disgraced Secret Service agent who, after a year and a half of blaming himself for the death of the First Lady, feels that he has a chance to redeem himself and protect the President after a group of North Korean terrorists take it over and hold the most powerful people in our nation hostage.

If the premise sounds a lot like “Die Hard in the White House,” that’s because it is “Die Hard in the White House,” which isn’t such a bad thing. It makes for a fun action-adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, at least not all the time. Butler, an actor I’m not particularly fond of, holds his own as the lead tough guy and makes for an entertaining and believable action star. His relationship with the president (played by Aaron Eckhart) and his family are established so well within the excellent opening, you can tell he’s in it more for just the glory and survival.

Mike Banning (Butler) is more than just a “get in, get out” kind of soldier. He stays in until the job is done, no matter what the risk. For what this role calls for, Butler delivers it all. A likable persona, but also a rough and tough side that you know the enemy will fall under.

But as thought-out as Butler’s character may be, the writing of the other characters sometimes falls flat. We get a nice set-up of the president’s son and the relationship he has with Banning in the other secret service men. “We’re gonna make a secret service agent out of you,” states Banning, but the son is carelessly written off halfway through the movie.

Morgan Freeman plays the acting president after the hostage-taking of the real one, but is given very little time to shine. You’d think that when an outstanding actor like Morgan Freeman takes on a role, that the character would be one of the best in the movie. Anyone could have done what he did in the movie, which is a sad thing to say about good ol’ Morgan. Aaron Eckhart was a believable and likable choice to play the president of the United States, but, like Freeman, doesn’t have a moment to rise to the occasion and become something better than just standard.

Once the White House has been taken over, the action is non-stop. Is it ridiculous? Of course it is. Almost everything about this plot is unbelievable. Yet, it still manages to give audiences an adrenaline rush that will keep everyone’s eyes glued to the screen. Man after man goes after Banning, but he rips through them like a shoot em’ up video game on the easy setting. Some may find its action lazy, considering how much it mimics the original “Die Hard” film. The formula itself is unoriginal; it’s rare now to find an action movie that doesn’t remind you of another one. This does not mean it isn’t entertaining. If action is what you seek, then action is what you will get with this adventure.

However, just because a movie is trying to be fun, and delivers on those levels, doesn’t mean that everything about the plot is excusable. There are a handful of times where any thinking person with half a brain will roll their eyes and think, “Are you kidding me?” You mean to tell me that even after a year and a half of being out of the Secret Service, they kept all the access codes the same as when Banning worked there? I thought they changed every code in the White House every hour. Yes, even the garage code. Suspension of disbelief is essential to enjoying this movie.

This is a film for straight action junkies, complete with a plot for those who play Call of Duty are sure to love. It gets bloody and brutal, earning it’s R rating. As unoriginal as it might be, there’s still something refreshing about this movie. Maybe it’s comparatively due to all of the mediocre film we’ve seen so far in 2013, or maybe it’s because the last “Die Hard” film was a disappointment to most, or maybe it’s because America is looking for its next great action hero.

I’m not saying Gerard Butler is the next big thing, or that a franchise can, or should, be built off of this, but “Olympus Has Fallen” is a fun, action-filled time at the movies. It’s a movie where you can sit back and watch a one-man army take back our country from foreign invaders.  You could talk for hours with a group of friends about the absurd actions within the plot, but it’s not a film that’s meant for that. Some films get better upon reflection, this one does not. Enjoy “Olympus Has Fallen” for what it is, and the time you spend on this thrill ride will have been worth it.

Grade: B

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