We've had the Die Hard formula pretty much everywhere over the years: a battleship (Under Siege), a train (Under Siege 2), an airliner (Passenger 57), an elite boys' school (Toy Soldiers), the Presidential Jet itself (Air Force One) and many other slight variations, right down to a shopping mall (Irresistible Force) and a water processing plant (Lethal Tender). And why not? It's a terrific formula. Someone should tell Bruce Willis about it because while his last Die Hard movies (which even shoehorned the words "Die Hard" into their titles) deviated wildly from the formula to the extent of barely being Die Hards at all (A Good Day To Die Hard in particular is no more a Die Hard than it is an episode of Embarrassing Bodies), this punchy, spectacularly gun-happy romp couldn't be more of a Die Hard film if they shaved Gerard Butler's head, put him in a vest and had him say "Yippee-ki-yay....". For all that his name's Mike Banning, for all practical purposes he's John McClane.
Banning was on the President's (Aaron Eckhart) security detail eighteen months ago, but quit when unable to save the First Lady (Ashley Judd) in a car accident. But he just happens to be around when the South Korean premier is in town - and a top terrorist (Rick Yune) has mounted a private army to storm The White House itself. Banning's somehow managed to avoid being killed along with everyone else in a four-mile radius, and sets about rescuing the President's son (so he can't be used as leverage to get the nuclear codes) and taking the down the bad guys. Meanwhile Morgan Freeman is the Acting President trying to keep everything together from the Pentagon....
Olympus Has Fallen - the Secret Service code message for the fall of the White House into enemy hands - is a dazzlingly stupid film with a worrying love for explosions and weaponry: machine guns, military aircraft shooting fighter jets out of the sky, helicopter gunships, carbombs, C4, RPGs, suicide bombers and a full-blown nuclear apocalypse set to go off on American soil, and only Gerard Shouty Butler can stop them. It's full of holes: first they need the President's codes, then it seems they don't; they're aware of the old tunnels leading out of the bunker but they're not aware of the air vents despite supposedly having sealed them off; the combination to the Oval Office safe hasn't been changed in at least 18 months; and the bad guys don't send anyone to get Butler's wife (Radha Mitchell).
The timing of the film, as North Korea starts getting arsey in real life, is obviously a happy coincidence, but that's the second time this year (after Red Dawn) that a movie has credited that country with military might it most likely won't have for years yet. Kudos to Lionsgate, though, for not following 20th Century Fox's shameful record of cutting back on the swearing and violence in order to get a nice cuddly 12A (A Good Day To Die Hard, Taken 2), leaving the bad language and bloody headshots intact for the 15 it rightly deserves. For its jawdropping amounts of violence, destruction, things blowing up and corpses scattered all over the White House lawn, and the occasional smart one-liner ("Why don't you and I play a game of F*** Off? You can go first") offsetting the general lack of humour and overwhelming air of America Is Wonderful cheerleading.
As a stupid Saturday night multiplex thudfest it's decent enough slambang entertainment with moments of CGI destruction presumably aimed more at the American market rather than ours, with icons like the Washington Monument and the front of the White House itself being gleefully trashed (curiously, the destruction of London's glittering West End in G.I. Joe: Retaliation didn't have much effect here). It has no subtlety, but then it's not interested in subtlety: it's interested in waving the Stars and Stripes and blowing shit up. On that popcorn level, it's headcrackingly enjoyable and perfectly well done (if a bit long, some of the CG effects are a bit dodgy, and the score occasionally feels too reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's Air Force One), but there's not that much else on show.