Olympus Has Fallen sets up a great mystery and political thriller, hinting at a wide-ranging political conspiracy and a fifth column within the U.S. government, only to become a silly action movie at the end. It is almost like they pasted the end of a completely different movie onto the beginning of a much better movie.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
We start off with a vacation at Camp David that ends in a tragedy that really does not contribute to the overall plot. The consequences of the tragedy for main protagonist Mike Banning contributed virtually nothing and it could have been left out completely, but the scene does do a good job of establishing the emotional bond between Banning and the President’s son, Connor. But even that was not necessary – Banning would set out to rescue Connor regardless.
Where the action really starts – and where the movie could have started – is with the terrorist / fifth column attack on the White House. The terrorists are flying an Air Force bomber, which shoots down two fighter jets and then randomly butchers people in the streets of Washington DC. How exactly did they get this? How did they get access to a top secret anti-aircraft weapon that they use to repel an attempt to re-take the White House later? Did they infiltrate the Air Force? Is there a fifth column that is looking to stage a coup?
What is interesting is that House Speaker Trumbull suggests threatening North Korea with a military strike, and when asked what happens if they call our bluff he says “Who’s bluffing?” President Asher rejects this course of action as he wants to avoid an unnecessary war. Between the terrorists holding two major pieces of equipment and the fact that they have sensitive and highly classified knowledge of U.S. national defense, are there forces within the U.S. government looking to force a war with North Korea?
None of this is followed up on at all. The obvious questions about how the terrorists acquired U.S. military equipment and highly classified information are never answered. All of the setup for this is wasted as the movie becomes a Die Hard clone, with Banning serving as a one-man army taking down the terrorists – who go from an unstoppable force that easily massacres security forces to cannon fodder unable to do anything against Banning.
This could have been so much better.
Final Grade: C.