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When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a North Korean terrorist mastermind (Rick Yune) and the President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) finds himself trapped within the building. As the national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger disaster.

Review by Louise Keller:
Call me cynical, but there's just a tad too much flag waving, excess of everything and plot by numbers in this big action thriller that sprays blood and bullets lavishly between major explosions and death-defying stunts. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua seems to have laid everything out too darned carefully and many of the action sequences that should have us on the edge of our seats, play monotonously. Incredible, I know. There's tension in the scenes involving hand combat however and Gerard Butler fits the bill as the redemption-seeking ex-secret service man that sets out to save the US President and the world at large.

The all-important key relationships are established in a memorable prologue set at Camp David in the midst of a heavy snow storm. Aaron Eckhart has just the right physique for US President Benjamin Asher with his square-jaw good looks and dimpled chin, while Ashley Judd is glamorous as well as warm and charismatic as his first lady. Their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen) is a smart kid and has a close relationship with Mike Banning (Butler), who is ready to take a bullet for his President at any time. It's a case of casting by numbers, too. The events that transpire squeeze Mike out of the President's protection detail; his new desk job does not suit him. We get a glimpse of his marriage that is clearly under strain (Radha Mitchell is terrific as Mike's wife).

The audacious and sophisticated assault on the White House (the title's reference to its code name Mount Olympus) takes place in broad daylight. Benefiting from the topicality of the current North Korean instability, terrorists invade the White House, make their demands and produce a threat to US security. Rick Yune plays Kang, the terrorist leader, who does his best with the material on hand. Much of the killing is at point blank range which disturbingly cumulates and ends up becoming numbingly routine.

Fuqua has assembled a top cast, although there is not much opportunity for them to shine. Morgan Freeman's role as the Speaker of the House is token and I was greatly irritated by the over-directed reaction shots from Angela Bassett's Secret Service Director and Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense. There were titters of laughter through some of the trite, inappropriate and often melodramatic dialogue. Cringe.

Butler delivers as the underdog who is cool under pressure and his scenes with young Jacobsen are among the film's best. So if it's just bullets, bangs and wham-bam action you are after, this is the film for you. If you're looking for a credible tale with an emotional hit and something extra, you'll be disappointed.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If this film were a pizza, it would be with double cheese plus all the trimmings you can pile on, and the base would be thick and heavy. But if it were a video game, it would be just like it is ... maybe shorter. If it were an action thriller, it would be better written and directed. There's only so much American patriotism you can wrap in a flag and keep waving in a movie that not once but twice has a President say "... and God bless the United States of America". All the while leaving the hero spouting in his native Scottish accent. The irony isn't sweet, though, it's just silly.

The pumped up and primitive plot is an overdone combo of siege movie and disaster flick, with the White House as the scene of the disaster - while even bigger ones are imminent. The baddie, Kang, is a caricature, and poor Rick Yune plays him as one. There is an incoherent motive behind his desire to obtain the code for America's nuclear arsenal so he can blow it up. He seems unaware that his plan will make him evaporate, too. But then he is busy trying to force the Americans to pull back the 7th fleet ... and something about unifying the Korean peninsula. It doesn't matter, anyway, it's all irrelevant to the film as presented.

Some of the dialogue elicited laughs at my screening, either for banality or inappropriateness. Either way, it didn't help to sell the film as a genuine thriller.

All the same, you have to hand it to the cast: although Ashley Judd has a small role, she makes sure she is visible, Rhonda Mitchell is sweet as the nurse and hero's wife, Angela Basset is a bit stilted but likeable as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs, Melissa Leo is her dynamic best as a security chief beaten and tortured in front of the President, Ben - played with grimacing angst by Aaron Eckhart.

Morgan Freeman has to sit through a situation room that has been filled with inertia gas while the heart of the blessed United State of America is ripped up around him. Gerard Butler is all brawn as the man of the moment, who single handedly has to tackle the vast army of terrorists under Kang's command.

For all its faults, the film is at best executing action, although much of it is pretty hard to see, what with close ups intercut with even closer ups, weaponry and tracer bullets. Enormous damage and carnage ends up dulling our senses, compounded by a score as heavy handed as the direction.

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(US, 2013)

CAST: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Echhart, Finley Jacobsen, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Phil Austin, James Ingersoll

PRODUCER: Gerard Butler, Ed Cathell III, Mark Gill, Alan Siegel

DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua

SCRIPT: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt


EDITOR: John Refoua

MUSIC: Trevor Morris


RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes



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