Credit: Phil Caruso

In Olympus Has Fallen, how do North Korean terrorists go about capturing the White House and taking the leader of the free world (Aaron Eckhart) hostage? By employing a rogue fighter jet, a handful of suicide bombers, a garbage truck with a hidden machine gun, and one very highly placed saboteur. That’s the grabby, ”innovative” section of this otherwise brutally routine Die Hard-in-the-White-House thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) with his usual slam-bang, cutthroat aggression but with almost nothing in the way of surprise or genuine, organic suspense. In Air Force One, Harrison Ford made a powerfully convincing U.S. president; Aaron Eckhart, not so much. (He seems more like a testy press secretary on some rerun of The West Wing.) Nevertheless, the movie keeps rubbing our noses in how high the stakes are, with ominous images of a tattered Old Glory used to symbolize the impending ”fall of America.”

The terrorist ringleader, named Kang, is played by the sleekly handsome Rick Yune as a taunting geopolitical sociopath who orders the U.S. to remove its troops from the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, then threatens to detonate all of America’s nuclear weapons. Very grand plans indeed, though they’re not especially tricky or interesting, and neither is Yune’s one-note smug performance. The movie cuts back and forth between the secret underground White House bunker, where Kang torments the hostages (including a meant-to-be-Hillaryesque secretary of defense, played by an overly hysterical Melissa Leo), and a war room presided over by Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House. The countdown-to-Armageddon structure generates almost no tension, but Olympus Has Fallen does have lots of squalidly bloody hand-to-hand action, all of which is so pulpy and standardthat the film actually makes you grateful for the presence of Gerard Butler, gnashing his teeth in the Bruce Willis role. C

Olympus Has Fallen
  • Movie
  • R
  • 119 minutes
  • Antoine Fuqua