Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen is the must-see action film of 2013

Danny de Gracia and Tia Morales review the politics and current events behind the movie. Photo: Olympus Has Fallen is a stunning political action thriller. (Promotional Photo/FilmDistrict Distribution LLC)

 HONOLULU, March 23, 2013 – Hitting theaters this weekend is the heart-pounding, non-stop action thriller Olympus Has Fallen, a story of North Korean terrorists attacking Washington D.C. and taking control of the White House. Featuring a cast of hard boiled, veteran action movie stars including Gerald Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell and so many more, moviegoers won’t be disappointed by the incredible screen chemistry these talents bring to Olympus Has Fallen.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Replacement Killers, Shooter, Tears of the Sun) the film drops viewers directly into battle with gritty, gut-wrenching scenes that are as awful as they are realistic. Stirring harrowing visuals that are reminiscent of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and controversially portraying an invasion of the White House even as real life tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to brew, Olympus Has Fallen is powerfully intriguing and not for the fainthearted or easily alarmed.

Though Olympus Has Fallen involves an attack on Washington D.C., half a world away in distant Hawaii the movie hits an especially tender nerve among viewers as local residents are no strangers to North Korean threats of missile launches and nuclear drama. For a unique perspective on the movie and the real life impact of North Korea on the American homefront, I enlisted the expertise of Tia Morales, one of Hawaii’s most popular entertainment personalities to review Olympus Has Fallen with me.

(Spoiler alert: The final scene and some plot details are described in this review.)

Danny de Gracia: So Tia, what did you think about this weekend’s hottest movie release, Olympus Has Fallen?

Tia Morales: I really enjoyed this film! I think it was suspenseful from start to finish and the movie was well directed and followed through really well.

DDG: What would you say was your favorite moment in the movie?

Tia: My favorite part has to be the ending scene where Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerald Butler) is leading the President (Aaron Eckhart) out of the White House. That was very gratifying to know that he saved the day and the entire United States of America is safe.

DDG: Oh yeah, that was definitely a great scene. You know one of the things on my mind is that the movie release comes right on top of renewed tensions between the United States and North Korea. Do you think that this movie might cause people to be a little tense, if not paranoid since the backdrop of the movie is very close to our current political situation?

Tia: I read the paper almost every day and I don’t get a large sense of urgency of a major threat in the media, to me it seems if anything they kind of downplay it with North Korea. There was actually an article in the paper today about North Korea and how they are very upset with how we are still helping South Korea. Watching this movie and reading that article it makes it kind of scary because we see this comparison and parallel that this kind of thing is possible.

DDG: There was a lot of military hardware in this movie! F-22 fighters, an AC-130 gunship, OH-58 helicopters and the list goes on. What did you think about the concept the filmmakers used of North Korean terrorists stealing Air Force and Army weapons to attack the United States? 

Tia: I actually thought that was very clever, it’s something that you wouldn’t expect and I think it brought attention and awareness also to the scope of the nuclear situation here in America.

DDG: What did you think about Morgan Freeman’s character, the Speaker of the House? Do you think he convincingly played his role as Acting President?

Tia: I thought he did a really great job, but of course there were so many big stars in this film!

DDG: Totally an all star cast!

Tia: Yeah! (Laughs)

DDG: Do you think if something like that were to happen in real life our government would be able to respond effectively to an attack of that scale?

Tia: Definitely, and you know the movie’s punchline was we’re never stronger than until we’re tested and I feel that’s true in real life.

DDG: The interesting thing is that actually multiple movies are coming out this year dealing with major terrorist attacks and White House drama, the other movie coming out is called White House Down, and that’s basically a similar movie to Olympus Has Fallen. Overall though there seems to be a lot of movies and even video games about Washington D.C. and the United States getting attacked and overrun. The Red Dawn remake, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and so forth. Do you think that these movies come from the fact that people now maybe expect to be attacked by a foreign power or terrorist group?

Tia: Sure, especially with all the things that happened since 9/11. I feel like it is possible and these kinds of movies really connect with the people.

DDG: Do you think that all these movies about terrorism are maybe fueling public hysteria about terror and as a result people have the tendency when it comes election time to vote for politicians that talk about expanding the war on terror?

Tia: I think that the media does play a major role in shaping politics and people’s viewpoints on certain issues, but I think that comes with the territory.

DDG: So would you recommend this movie to your friends and family to watch? What’s your rating score for this movie?

Tia: Well I actually really enjoyed this film, I think it was perfect from the beginning to the end and had great characters and a great cast. It was such a good film and it definitely impressed me and caught my attention. I’d have to rate it a nine out of ten.

DDG: It was a great film, very emotionally intense, I’ll admit, I actually cried a few times during the film.

Tia: Aww.

DDG: I thought that the movie was very emotionally intense and had some powerful visuals. If I could sum it up in a single word it would be “heavy.” 

Tia: Heavy. Hmm. Yeah.

DDG: The beginning attack scenes stirred a lot of memories for me from the morning of September 11, 2001. The scenes of the fallen police and military all over Washington and the close up angles the movie employed were chillingly reminiscent of the scenes from the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. Also, being someone who likes to walk around D.C. a lot, I could totally visualize all the events of the movie in all those places which made it even more visceral for me. Later the movie sort of felt like “Die Hard in the White House” and even had several scenes which were I think dog whistled shoutouts to the first Die Hard movie.

Tia: A lot of critics have been referencing this movie to be a very similar, almost a remake of Die Hard.

DDG: Yeah! Because for example the plot revolves around terrorists who need to get a code sequence and later the terrorist leader Kang asks for a helicopter evacuation and fakes his death in a big explosion, just like Die Hard. There’s also a really funny scene where the turncoat Secret Service agent Forbes runs into Agent Banning by accident and then pretends to be a good guy that’s lost and lights up a cigarette to look sincere, just like Hans Gruber in Die Hard. 

I also noticed a few indirect connections to other movies. For example Angela Bassett plays the Secret Service Director, and this is her second time I think playing a White House official, in the 1997 movie Contact she played a fictional member of President Clinton’s staff and had the exact same hairdo and dress style as she did in Olympus Has Fallen. Secret Service Agent Forbes was played by Dylan McDermott, who also played a Secret Service agent alongside Clint Eastwood in the movie In The Line Of Fire, so fans of either movie might pick up on that.

Tia: It’s almost like a collage of different movies.

DDG: Right, exactly. One thing that really stood out to me and that I think they did really well is the portrayal of President Asher’s son, Connor. Normally a lot of action movies that include children of a political leader or young teens caught in a crisis usually overdo it and make the kids so annoying and panicky to the point of distracting from the flow of the movie. Best example of that was the late 90s movie Air Force One, in that movie the daughter of the president is just there to reinforce panic with constant screaming and moodiness. 

Tia: Yeah! (Laughs)

DDG: In the case of Olympus Has Fallen, Connor is pretty courageous, mild mannered and he’s not emotionally demanding or a character put there as a plot device to cause reckless chaos for adults like some movies do the kid roles.

That really connected with me personally especially because as a boy my dad was a senior Air Force officer and a group commander and we were stationed overseas during some really turbulent and scary times and watching the way Connor interacts with the adults was very realistic, at least in my mind. There were times when bad things happened overseas and I had to be around my dad’s aides or officers and so I really connected with that aspect of the film.

Tia: Reflecting back, I think Connor provided a positive intermediary for hope and justice during the chaos and bloodshed. As a child, he symbolizes innocence and through his deliverance into safety, the audience gets a glimmer of hope throughout the disparity of the situation. And as you said, because of his measured, non-frantic state we can relate and empathize with his character more, rather than being annoyed if he were portrayed differently.

DDG: Absolutely. Totally. Overall I really liked the movie, I thought the actor selection was perfect, good chemistry, the special effects were impressive and the political nexus to current events made it particularly edge of the seat to watch. I think I’d also rate it a nine out of ten.

Tia: Yeah, I think it’s very close to home with what’s happening in current political events and what’s happening in today’s society. Although it is just a movie, we must remind ourselves that this film really explicates the reality and possibility of terrorism, especially with the parallels to our current tension with North Korea. We also have to be reminded of 9/11 and the reality of an attack on U.S. soil. 

With the abundance of political movies like Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Red Dawn and others I think it’s important that even as we enjoy watching the fictional drama on screen, reflecting on real life we must not undervalue the safety we have today in real life and the responsibilities that come with preserving it.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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