Review: London Has Fallen

Whilst the Vice President (Morgan Freeman) is temporarily left in charge, President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and trusted friend/Secret Service Agent Banning (Gerard Butler) head off with Secret Service head Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) to London to attend the funeral of the recently deceased Prime Minister. Turns out though, that the funeral is being used by arms dealers Alon Aboutboul and Waleed Zuaiter to take out a bunch of world leaders all at once. It’s up to Banning to see that President Asher does not end up among the casualties and to snuff out the bad guys while he’s at it. Charlotte Riley turns up as an MI6 agent who aids Banning, whilst Robert Forster and Melissa Leo reprise their roles as General Clegg and Defense Secretary McMillan, Radha Mitchell returns as Banning’s loving (and now pregnant) wife, whilst Jackie Earle Haley plays White House Chief of Staff Mason.

2013 gave us two White House-set action-thrillers. One of them was pretty good. This 2016 Babak Najafi (an Iranian-Swede director) flick is a sequel to the other one. For while “White House Down” was as good an old-school action movie as you’re likely to get in a post-9/11 climate, “Olympus Has Fallen” was basically one of the shittier seasons of “24” where Jack Bauer was getting tortured by the Chinese or whatever. It was no fun at all and didn’t leave all that much of an impression on me, despite a fine cast. Well, this sequel is…a bit better thankfully, but I still would’ve much rather seen a sequel to the entertaining “White House Down”.

It doesn’t surprise me that this film comes from Millennium Films, because they’re basically the new Cannon Group/Golan-Globus, and early scenes depicting Pakistani terrorists takes you right back to Chuck Norris territory circa 1985. Also, you know you’re watching an inferior product when seemingly one of the only British actors the filmmakers could afford to play a military/government talking head is Colin Salmon for fuck’s sake. Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman for the first time in all the years I’ve watched him in films of wildly variable quality, appears to be phoning it in here. Even star Gerard Butler looks like he’s being held at gunpoint to be here.

Full credit to the screenwriters though, for at least attempting to give the characters played by Freeman and Angela Bassett a little more personality than they were afforded last time out. Bassett at least looks to be quite happy about that, though she leaves the picture fairly early on, which is a shame. Freeman may be phoning it in, but he does sell grave seriousness on their face better than just about any actor alive. The initial terrorist attack is well-done but silly enough (and is it ever silly) that it doesn’t have you with a bad taste in your mouth or thinking about real-life events. Sure, it felt weird seeing it in a 2016 film, and I can totally understand the position that this sort of thing shouldn’t be seen as ‘entertaining’ anymore. However, if you can shut that part of your brain off, it’s certainly effective for what it is. It’s quite a spectacular scene, and actually quite a violent film, which wasn’t unwelcome by me. Silly or not (and it sure as fuck is silly) the terrorist plans are really expansive and well planned, rather than the usual idiots who are bested by the hero all-too easily. I also have to give a shout out to composer Trevor Morris (“Immortals”), the best thing about the previous film and probably the chief asset to this film too. Excellent score, one of the best of the year most likely.

Gerard Butler’s character is about as much of a protocol-follower as Jack Bauer, and as someone who enjoyed most seasons of “24”, I can’t really complain much here. I will say though, that he and the film indulge a little too much in the whole ‘This is America and we’re not fuckin’ around anymore!’ stuff for my tastes (Ironic coming from an Iranian filmmaker, perhaps as well). That’s a little too retro action movie for me as Butler becomes a Chuck Norris-esque champion of non-PC (or pre-PC in Chuck’s case), pissed off America. At one point Butler tells a terrorist to go back to ‘Fuckheadistan’ for crying out loud. That’ll play well to the yokels, but made me roll my eyes. Meanwhile, it’s a bit of a shame that Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley and Robert Forster aren’t afforded much screen time at all, though it’s hardly the first time Forster has taken it easy as an actor. As for Butler (who is one of eleventy billion producers here), he’s fine but I think Aaron Eckhart is so much more interesting as the President. He’s as solid as ever in a role that kind of ends up like Samuel L. Jackson in “Big Game”, except this time around the Secret Service guy is the hero, not the traitor.

With a script credited to several people, coming from a hack studio, and being a sequel to a film I frankly didn’t much care for I wasn’t expecting a good time with this one. I didn’t get a good time either, but it’s certainly a step up from its predecessor. If you’re into this kind of thing, you’ll probably like this one more than me. It’s borderline OK for me, and Angela Bassett really needs to stop saying yes to every little role she gets offered. This is beneath her significant talents. Excellent rat-a-tat music score. The screenplay is by the quartet of Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt (who made their debut with the previous film), Christian Gudegast (son of soap opera titan Eric Braeden) and Chad St. John (his first feature film screenplay contribution).

Rating: C+


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