Reviewed by Sam Robinson
Rated MA15+. Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Just a few days ago I posted my review of White House Down on Reel Gospel. I mentioned how it was basically Die Hard in the White House, and that Channing Tatum’s John Cale was a clone of John McClane. Well hold on to your hats – I’m about to review another film based on a siege in the White House – Olympus Has Fallen – although I should clarify that it was released a few months before White House Down.
Unfortunately Olympus is far less entertaining than White House Down and probably takes the cake for most confusing film title since Quantum of Solace. Which I still don’t understand.
The action opens with a disaster. On a winter’s night a car containing President Asher (Eckhart) and his wife Margaret skids off an icy bridge. All but the First Lady are rescued. Mike Banning (Butler) is the Secret Service agent on duty that night, and as the action moves 18 months in the future he is no longer working at the White House but is still haunted by the tragedy.
Thus the mayhem begins. A meeting between the POTUS and the Prime Minister of South Korea at the White House is compromised by North Korean terrorists. Things explode. People are killed. Banning takes on the McClane/Cale position and enters the war zone to save the President – and somehow still has the security clearance to get into safes via thumbprint.
Really? In the White House? When I resigned from my last job my security pass was cancelled the day I left!
The big issue is that Olympus lacks character. There’s no humour and the shoot-em-up fight scenes run for 15-20 minutes without a break (and are extremely violent). It’s a very cold film.
It’s also very lazy in direction. There’s titles on screen to tell us who the characters are rather than introducing them through dialogue.
And the symbolism is anything but subtle:
– An American flag is shot with bullets, then that same flag falls in slow motion.
– When the POTUS is taken hostage, a new President is instated while standing in front of a picture of the other one.
– A North Korean terrorist is bashed over the head with a bust of Abe Lincoln.
Olympus spells everything out for you, which frankly, is a little patronising.
Flaws aside, Olympus actually helps us to think through sin and atonement (that is, making payment for sin). Banning is trying to save the President and his son in order to make up for his past. At another point in the film, the terrorist quotes to President Asher part of Romans:
‘I’ve read your Bible, Mr. President. It says the wages of sin is death.’
Here, the sin he is referring to is America’s involvement in the Korean civil war, and the death is the destruction to be caused by the terrorists – so it’s clearly interpreted incorrectly. Check the quote in context, Romans 6:22-23:
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What this wonderful part of Scripture is truly saying is that when we trust in him, Jesus sets us free from sin. On the cross he has forgiven us for our rebellion against him, and we are given a gift of eternal life.
Yes, it’s true that the wages of sin is death, however when we put our trust in Christ alone, he forgives us and gives what we don’t deserve – life. Banning struggles for months and months to find a way of making up for his mistakes, and not even the incredibly good deed of saving the President will do that. Only Jesus at the cross can achieve true atonement.
If you’re looking for an action flick based on a siege in the White House, I recommend you choose White House Down over Olympus Has Fallen. I’m giving it two-and-a-half out of five stars.
Olympus Has Fallen is available on Blu-Ray and DVD on Quickflix.