Olympus Has Fallen Review – USA/North Korea Smackdown!

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt

Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Rick Yune

Release date: March 22nd, 2013

Distributor: FilmDistrict

Country: USA

Running time: 120 minutes


Best part: Butler as an action hero.

Worst part: The poor CGI.

In the 80s, the Soviet Union (Russia) was seen as a crippling nuclear threat. In the 2000s, the Middle East was seen as a dangerous and chaotic region. Today, North Korea is seen as the most villainous country on Earth. The Red Dawn remake and Olympus Has Fallen contain intelligent and dangerous North Korean villains. Olympus Has Fallen is an ultra-fun B-movie with a taste for violence, patriotism, and theatrics.

Gerard Butler.

It’s a film that goes far beyond its ridiculous and cheap premise. It’s insanely silly in more ways than one, but it relishes its opportunities. The film starts off with four American flags waving proudly within the first 30 seconds. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) share a close bond. However, their lives are drastically altered by a car crash that kills two Secret Service agents and the first lady. 18 months on, Banning fails to adjust to his new life as a Treasury Department worker. One day, Washington D.C. is attacked by an army of North Korean Paramilitary trained terrorists. Led by Kang (Rick Yune), the terrorists hold President Asher hostage and threaten to destroy America. With the help of Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and Secret Service leader Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), Banning must tip-toe through the white house to save both his friends and the country.

Morgan Freeman.

Morgan Freeman.

Similarly to G.I. Joe: Retaliation and A Good Day to Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen is a jingoistic and excessive action extravaganza. It’s another actioner that revels in both nostalgia and explosions. The movie is the best ‘Die Hard‘ flick of 2013 so far. This film has the ridiculousness and epic scale of a Die Hard sequel. However, unlike AGDTDH, the movie knows how to entertain both Die Hard fans and the average cinema-goer. I love this film despite its inconsistencies. The film is much more than just its right-wing and fascist agenda. It’s a heart-thumping action flick in the vein of Air Force One and Escape from New York. Many modern action flicks aren’t violent. They use the M15+ rating to capture the largest possible audience. Olympus Has Fallen willingly pushes its MA15+ rating to the max. The film’s introduction contains a tragic event. It’s an emotionally affecting and tense sequence that establishes bonds between important characters. Soon after, the film becomes even more unsettling with the grotesque and ridiculous terrorist attack. Every step of the terrorist’s plan is both implausible and gratuitous. However, this meticulous attack takes out famous monuments, Secret Service agents, and innocent civilians. Given the recent events in Boston, It’s a sequence that may be too difficult for some people to watch.

Rick Yune.

Rick Yune.

Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) is one of the best action-drama directors working today. He builds character and tension before the spectacular set-pieces take place. His film moves at a cracking pace as the clock ticks down. However, many of the action sequences are let down by poor CGI. These sequences look like video-game cut scenes. Set-pieces that should be thrilling are void of emotional pay-off. This film is a subjective look at recent events. The feud between North and South Korea, and the west, is intensifying. The film gives you a preposterous yet dangerous interpretation of this conflict. This cliché-ridden script is uncomfortably xenophobic and jingoistic. There are many scenes in which the American flag is proudly raised, riddled by bullets, or thrown from the White House roof in slow motion. Major plot-holes and confusing character motivations aside, there are many scenes which heavy-handedly depict American pride and valour. For example, the scene in which the Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, whilst being dragged along the floor, is unintentionally laughable. There are also many silly one-liners which inappropriately end important scenes.

“Why don’t you and I play a game of f*ck off. You go first.” (Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), Olympus Has Fallen).

Butler & Aaron Eckhart.

Likeable action-movie characters are difficult to find nowadays. In the 80s, they were either skilled tough guys (any character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) or average Joes (John McClane). In Olympus Has Fallen, Banning is as charming and threatening as an 80s action hero. He struggles to adjust to his new life as a desk jockey. This damaged hero must complete his new mission in order to redeem himself. Much like McClane, he is both charming and vile whilst dealing with one henchman after another. The torture sequence is both shocking and enjoyable; establishing how far he is willing to go. Butler convincingly fits into the action hero role. His physicality and charisma turn an otherwise generic lead character into someone to root for. There are many esteemed character actors peppered throughout the movie. Eckhart is underused as the President. Freeman’s performances in Olympus Has Fallen and Oblivion prove that he is still one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. Yune is charming as the slimy villain while Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster and Radha Mitchell are charismatic in underwritten roles.

Despite its inconsistencies, Olympus Has Fallen is a rollicking action flick that isn’t afraid to be exploitative. It may be too much for some, but action movie fans will have a great time watching landmarks being destroyed and Butler kicking ass. Fuqua has created an enjoyable and inventive action flick.

Verdict: A visceral and intensifying action flick.

Warm Bodies Review – Hungry Heart

Director: Jonathan Levine

Writer: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel)

Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco, John Malkovich

Release date: February 1st, 2013

Distributors: Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate

Country: USA

Running time: 97 minutes


Best part: The chemistry between Hoult and Palmer.

Worst part: The dodgy CGI.

For the past few years, we have been inundated with the works of author and stay-at-home Mormon Stephanie Meyer. The Twilight franchise and The Host have now made the big bucks, but that doesn’t mean they are good. Imagine if a romantic-horror movie for teenagers was actually well written, directed, and acted. I know it seems impossible, but Warm Bodies fits this premise. It’s a fun, witty and heartening examination of life and love.

Nicholas Hoult.

Nicholas Hoult.

The film starts out with narration from a teenage zombie who calls himself R (Nicholas Hoult). He’s stuck in an existential crisis whilst shuffling around a decayed airport. He lives in an abandoned plane and hangs out with fellow zombie M (Rob Corddry). His dull existence is livened up by the introduction of resistance fighter Julie (Teresa Palmer). It’s love at first sight. After R eats her boyfriend(Dave Franco)’s brain during an attack, he saves Julie by escorting her to his hideout. Their relationship slowly begins to blossom, as Julie learns that there is more to the zombified inhabitants of Earth than meets the eye. Many directors have experimented with zombies, romance, and Shakespeare. These topics are popular for many reasons. Despite their vast differences, their elements can easily be woven together. Warm Bodies certainly owes a debt of gratitude to zom-coms such as Shaun of the Dead and  Zombieland.

Hoult & Teresa Palmer.

Hoult & Teresa Palmer.

The movie inventively takes on the zombie point of view. Many people have described Warm Bodies as a ‘zom-rom-com’. It may be a cheesy description, but it fits this movie like a glove. Its story can be summed up with a quote from esteemed poet Maya Angelou. She said that “love is like a virus, it can happen to anybody at any time”. These zombies are murderous yet still have some life left in them. Their dreams and memories are trapped by the infection stewing in their veins. R sees the funny side of his existence whist wishing he had his old life back. He charmingly grunts every word whilst we hear his intelligible narration. His ‘almost conversations’ with M are some of the film’s best moments. The film’s sense of style is subtle yet efficient. The 80s soundtrack, featuring songs by Bruce Springsteen, The Scorpions, and Guns N’ Roses, lends the film a comforting sense of nostalgia. The writing and direction are responsible for the film’s quality. Jonathan Levine is clearly a fan of both zombie lore and romantic-comedies.  With this and 50/50 to his credit, he could be seen as the next John Landis or Ivan Reitman. Both are black comedies that deal with the ugly side of the human condition. Warm Bodies is clearly inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s touching story is brought to life in a film dealing with the worst situation imaginable. The film forms its own identity whilst imitating the classic tale. The film subverts zombie clichés whilst conforming to romantic-comedy clichés. It’s a classic ‘Hollywood’ story of two people from different sides of the tracks.

“I don’t wanna be this way. I’m lonely. I’m totally lost. I mean, I’m literally lost. I’ve never been in this part of the airport before.” (R (Nicholas Hoult), Warm Bodies).

John Malkovich.

John Malkovich.

This movie has similar elements to Let the Right One In. However, whereas that film was violent and dark, this is witty and quirky. The relationship between Julie and R is palpable despite their unusual situation. The airport becomes the setting for multiple ‘dates’. They listen to rock music, drive sports cars, and enjoy the spoils of R’s collections. The zombie makeover scene, with the song Pretty Woman blaring in the background, is a stand-out comedic moment. They soon begin to act like a cute couple. This is both a fun comedy and a perfect date movie. The romance is, at points, heavy-handed. Metaphors and cheesy moments are awkwardly thrust into this otherwise tender romantic-comedy. The love-story also leaves many questions without answers. It’s difficult to decipher how and why their relationship can cure the zombies around them. The ultra-dead zombies, known as ‘Bonies’, are also unconvincing. Calling back to the Ray Harryhausen era of CGI, they are uninteresting and prove to be only a minor threat. The film is brought to life by its stellar performances. Hoult overcomes his character’s obvious restrictions to deliver a fun performance. He is a charming and sensitive performer who convinces us to care about his character’s remarkable transformation. Corddry brings wit to his otherwise generic role. Palmer changes from tough chick to soulful love interest with ease. John Malkovich, despite his underwritten role, is charismatic as the cynical resistance leader and Julie’s dad. Franco and Analeigh Tipton are charming in small roles.

With a zany sense of humour and catchy retro soundtrack, Warm Bodies is a surprise hit. Combining so many genre elements and influences, it’s a charming and intelligent interpretation of zombie lore and romantic-comedy mechanics. Levine and Hoult lend their remarkable talents to an otherwise conventional pseudo-Shakespearean tale.

Verdict: A witty and charming zom-rom-com.