Banning is working a desk job when North Korean rogue terrorists implement a highly-coordinated, well-planned attack on the White House and take the president hostage. The only man who can get in -- and get Asher out safely -- is Banning. With guidance from his boss (Angela Bassett) and Speaker of the House Alan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), he must get down to the bunker before the terrorist leader, Kang (Rick Yune) unleashes total annihilation.
Does this action thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day"), induce enough shock and awe? Is the lone-wolf-against-an-army story too cliched, or does the A-list cast's performances make it feel fresh? Here are the 10 things you should know about "Olympus Has Fallen":
1. The attack on the White House is jaw-dropping Once the blitz begins, you won't be able to look away. Sure, we've seen monuments destroyed before, but this is unlike anything we've ever seen. Watching the seemingly impenetrable symbol of power shot up and bombed is terrifying and disturbing.
2. It's also extremely violent As wave after wave of Secret Service agents emerge to protect the White House, the terrorists just pull out more guns and ammo. The body count is enormous. This is an incredibly bloody, brutal takeover that definitely earns the R rating.
3. Gerard Butler is the man "Mr. 300," as Angela Bassett calls him, is at the top of his game here. Due to the necessity of taking out the bad guys as stealthily as possible (at one point, the villain thinks he's dead), Butler engages in a lot of hand-to-hand combat and shows off a fearsome fighting form.
4. The story does get a little ridiculous There are quite a few troubling gaps in logic -- like the fact that none of the passwords in the White House were changed in the 18 months since Banning left the presidential detail? And though it seems heroic for Asher to save his staff from torture by giving up codes, it's horrifyingly dangerous when you really think about it.
5. Everyone in the cast really brings it The caliber of actors is astonishing. Eckhart is his usual charismatic self, while Freeman's natural gravitas makes you wonder why he doesn't play the president in every movie. Angela Bassett is sharp and authoritative as the head of Secret Service, and Melissa Leo gives an electric performance as the secretary of defense. While the story can sometimes feel predictable, the performances feel energetically fresh.
6. The villain isn't cartoonish Yune does a great job of making Kang seem insane, yet intelligent. This is no raving lunatic; his motivations are clear, however wrong they are. And Kang's quiet, cool, meticulous manner adds dread and urgency to the situation.
7. Prepare for cliches "Olympus Has Fallen" is definitely not breaking new ground, and there are some groan-inducing, cliched subplots, particularly the one involving Manning rescuing the president's son. There are also too-familiar archetypes: the hothead general who turns out to be wrong; the good guy turned bad; the heroic "last man standing"; and the anxious wife waiting to hear news.
8. There are some funny moments While Butler's Manning isn't quite as quip-tastic as "Die Hard" hero John McClane, he does manage to reel off some zingers as he dispatches various terrorists or shrugs off orders from the crisis center. An interrogation scene caused quite a few chuckles.
9. The movie is a bromance In the little bit of screentime that Butler and Eckhart share, their chemistry makes it clear that Banning and Asher share a deep friendship. The camaraderie of their initial boxing scene carries through the entire movie and explains Banning's dogged determination to go beyond duty to rescue Asher.
10. White House secrets are revealed Who knew the house was entirely rebuilt (inside) during the Truman administration? And that there are secret passages? Is there really a vent that could be used as an escape? The procedures for taking the president down to the bunker were also fascinating.
EARLIER ON MOVIEFONE: