Taking a look today at Olympus Has Fallen.
Didn’t know much about this script or movie until I recently saw the commercials (I really need to get out more), but it looked interesting.
Will Mike Banning be able to save our interest AND the president in this 116 page script?
Don’t forget you can download the script here.
1.) Marketability of the Idea
It’s an action movie.
The logline for which is:
Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.
With that said, we should expect a lot of explosions, fight scenes, and weapons/vehicles.
This sort of movie hits a few demographics, especially when we include the “disgraced” adjective that suggests Mike will have a shot at redemption.
2.) Plot Stability
Was the plot stable? Sure.
Did it keep me guessing? Yep.
It was Die Hard in the White House.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to think and/or suggest that, but I couldn’t get that thought out of my head as I read the script. In fact I wasn’t thinking Mike Banning, I was reading the story as if John McClane were in it.
This fact lends more to originality (which isn’t a question) and didn’t really hurt the story, but it easily could have been the new Die Hard movie instead of the Russian one.
A few things the script did well.
Around page 53, we learn Kang (the main villain) is after Cerberus codes.
What are they?
It’s handled in quick exposition, but we also need to know who has them. Instead of another character just telling us, we get to see Kang threaten to kill the individuals he knows have them. Very cool, as it gave us the info we need in a dramatic and original way.
There needs to be three codes though, and a good twist happens at the end, when the president gives up his code. He knows Kang needs all 3 and Asher, the president, thinks he has him, because Kang killed the Secretary of Defense, BUT WAIT, who walks through the door back from the dead? That’s right, the secretary of defense, and SHE gave up her code thinking the second fella died without giving his up.
This brings up another cool thing I enjoyed about the plot.
Kang always seemed to be one step ahead of the good guys, which made for some cool tension. Just when we thought things were going to go well, Kang throws a wrench in the plans and hostages die or a new threat is unleashed.
Lastly, and I won’t ruin it, is the North Korean plane plot twist. Just when we thought the White House was safe…
That part caught me unawares, and surprising a reader is ALWAYS a good thing. (I guess I should add in “as long as it fits in the plot.”)
Two things that need fixed
The first HUGE plot point, which the script revolves around, is Mike’s saving the first lady.
They’re all snowmobiling, but her’s has an engine failure on a frozen lake outside Camp David. Of course the ice breaks and she falls through. Mike jumps right in after her though, and fishes her out.
In the end she dies and it’s ruled an “accident.” Not sure how this completely disgraces him though, as he did all he could.
For this to work, there should have been something more, like make it HIS fault she fell in or got stuck. The idea I had was to have Connor, the president’s son, fall into the lake. Then when Banning has to discharge his weapon under the ice to get Connor back out, BANG, the first lady catches a stray bullet in the gut.
Now THAT’S an “accident” that will disgrace someone.
The second thing that didn’t work was the Hydra weapon.
HUGE build up to it. Bad guys setting it up in secret, dramatic hydraulic lifts opening slowly, characters saying things like, “Oh noes, not Hydra!”
Then what was it? Some lame automated machine gun.
Sure it did a lot of damage, but the way everyone was going on about it, I expected something A LOT bigger and cooler and even an uber plot twist.
After it tears a helicopter or two apart, Banning shuts the doors on it and it destroys itself. It was the one convenient and easy plot point in the story that left A LOT of potential wasted.
Most of them were “meh.”
Kang I’ve already said was pretty cool, and everything a bad guy should be. Calm, collected, slightly insane.
He made for a good show, especially always being one step ahead.
The others blended together, like the random Secret Service guys and government officials.
Mike Banning was more or less a watered down version of John McClane.
President Asher was kind of a sissy, and would have been nicer to have a president that really stood up to the terrorists instead of just sitting there.
(i.e. When the Sandman comes in to take him out, she should actually ORDER the NSA op to do it.)
4.) Dialogue and Description
The description was good.
I’ll talk more about this later, but the action flowed smoothly.
A few quick nuggets of nice visuals though:
The WHITE HOUSE itself rises majestically from the emerald
South Lawn. Secret Service SNIPERS on the roof, K-9 PATROLS
circling the grounds, armed GUARDS at every entrance.
The most protected building on earth.
A large, well-lit room. Hermetically-sealed, waterproof,
Dialogue needed some work, especially in originality.
There were numerous lines that started with “well, hey, so.” This is a big NO for us as writers. We need to make it more interesting for our spec scripts. In fact if we’re starting dialogue like this, we should consider removing it altogether.
Most of it was just…so…cheesy.
(to Asher, only halfjoking)
Can’t be any colder than the
reception your foreign policy
initiative’s gettin’ on the Hill,
Sounded like one of those jokes Obama makes and the press corps laughs out of courtesy.
(shakes his head)
Always the cowboy —
So he knows what he’s doing —
Jacobs looks up.
And clearly will stop at nothing to
Is the Arnold in this movie?
You shouldn’t… have left… the
All of these felt like examples pulled from a book called, How to Write Action Dialogue. (I really hope that’s not a real book.)
Not only cheesy, that last one felt like something out of an action parody movie, where the character fake dies a time or two and overdramatically.
Please, please, please, don’t write like this. (And that’s coming from a guy who KNOWS he doesn’t write good dialogue.)
The format was good.
Description was broken up to be manageable.
No scene numbers.
Would be a script to look at if you’re wondering, “How should I format my script?”
Writing action sequences.
I’ve seen this question asked a time or two on our forums, and this script did that REALLY well.
I was “seeing” the action in my mind as I read it.
The brilliant thing about it was that it didn’t tell us what angles to view things from, just what the characters were doing.
Pretty important factoid there.
I’ll include two examples, but there were quite a few fight scenes, both human and vehicle, that should be read if you’re wondering how to write clear, concise action.
ON THE MALL
PEDESTRIANS stare up in fear and dismay. TOURISTS on the
Mall snap pictures, run for cover.
The defenders ready to OPEN FIRE. They’re going to blow this
plane out of the fucking sky when —
hanging from the C-130’s underbelly suddenly SCREAMS TO LIFE —
fires a massive LIGHT PULSE. The invisible pulse radiates in
every direction — like an EMP burst —
ON THE MALL
Everyone on the ground is INSTANTLY BLINDED. Cameras, radar,
laser targeting systems, all are incapacitated.
POV ORTIZ: He stares up at the plane — AND HIS WHOLE WORLD
The Park Ranger and other blinded defenders FIRE WILDLY.
Able only to HEAR their target passing overhead. Two
Stingers SCREAM from their launchers but miss their mark.
ROARS down the National Mall, over the Reflecting Pool.
Straight for the Capitol.
The cargo plane takes MULTIPLE HITS, but doesn’t slow. Door
gunners POURING FIRE with their Vulcans on the blinded
ON THE MALL
Helpless defenders are BLOWN OFF rooftops, RIDDLED on the
street. Crumpling to the ground like broken dolls.
leaps from the open manhole. Sees the Park Ranger, Tate and
Ortiz, all clutching their eyes.
He draws his Sig Sauer P229. RAPID-FIRES at the lumbering
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Actually, notice how the writers are “directing without directing.”
Banning hoists himself up onto the floor. Silently moves
forward, Glock raised —
The nearest commando’s eyes flicker.
The commando whirls — KNOCKING the Glock from Banning’s
hand. He raises his own weapon and —
Banning’s hand flashes down — SNAP! — SHATTERING the
commando’s forearm. Banning grabs the commando — SPINS him
to the ground — lands on top — twists — SNAPS the
Banning ROLLS as — the second commando — still unslinging
his weapon — tries to get off a shot. Banning’s foot lashes
out — like a piston — PULVERIZES the commando’s knee. He
grabs the man — lightning fast — open palm driving up into
the COMMANDO’S JAW. Spins him around just as the third
commando starts FIRING —
The rounds THUD into the second commando — body jerking —
KILLING him instantly. Banning uses the body as a shield —
HURLS the corpse into the third commando —
Banning and the third commando CRASH into the wall. Banning
kicks out — connects with the commando’s weapon — the gun
goes flying. The two roll across the floor, furiously
But again, if you’re asking yourself about action sequences, especially on how to make them clear, you should read this script.
7.) What should we avoid emulating?
This script was LITTERED with techno babble.
The weapons, vehicles, etc. were all specific names.
This confused me, and instead of saying things like “machine gun” we had to have “automatic mp5.” If, even for a moment, I’m wondering what a M61 VULCAN ROTARY CANNON is, I’m not thinking about the plot, and that’s bad.
Unless it’s ABSOLUTELY crucial to the plot (like naming Cerberus) keep things general so the reader knows what’s important and what’s not.
Rating: Read this if you ever wondered how Die Hard: White House would play out.