I don’t often say no to Gerard Butler or Morgan Freeman, so as soon as I saw Butler was playing the hero in this film, I bought in.
The movie gets off to a very rocky start, and opens with Butler as Mike Banning, a personal security detail on the President (Aaron Eckhart), on Christmas Eve a couple years prior. The entourage ventures out into a very icy night, and they get in a car accident. Unfortunately, the President’s wife (Ashley Judd) doesn’t make it and while nobody blames Banning for the incident or the decisions made, it’s difficult to be around someone who reminds you of it every day.
The movie cuts to the present day, where Mike has taken a new job with the Treasury, off the Secret Service detail, boring, but at least nobody dies on his watch. However, while he’s trying to live a normal, less dangerous, less adrenaline-packed lifestyle, an attack on the White House draws him back in again.
The President and several members of his staff are kidnapped by the North Koreans whom he was meeting with and they’re taking into the safety vault below the White House. Banning gets back in and plays a game of cat and mouse with the kidnappers, who are actually trying to detonate the nuclear missile silos across the US.
It’s an action-packed movie, with a little indulgent profanity, and a decent plot. At the time it was released, it felt unsettling because of how relevant it felt to current events, with North Korea’s nuclear program in the news.
The dialogue left plenty to be desired, especially after the characters’ emotions started running high. Typical of an action movie, but I suppose I expected more from the men who have played God, the Phantom of the Opera, and a fast-talking tobacco lobbyist.
While Morgan Freeman was his usual awesome presence, I am so saddened by the shit that Aaron Eckhart has had to deal with the past few years in terms of roles. It’s like he built up to Nick Naylor (Thank You For Smoking) with smaller, second fiddle parts in Erin Brockovich and Paycheck, and then he got screwed with No Reservations, Love Happens, and The Wicker Man, and now is back to less primary roles. He’s the effing President of the United States in this movie, and he’s not even the main character! I want to see him as a smart, cool, sex symbol like Nick Naylor again. Not a villain, a lame rom-com male lead, an action hero, or a secondary character. Give this man back his balls, Hollywood, and he will give you cinematic GOLD.
It was pretty damn entertaining, but after ranting about leaving Eckhart in the dust, I can’t say it was great. Take note, those four stars are on an “action movie scale” of five, meaning if we’re talking purely about film merit, it’s only three, but in terms of genre alone, it gets four. You’re welcome, Antoine Fuqua.
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