London Has Fallen
Babak Najafi’s London Has Fallen is the sequel to the 2013 Antoine Fuqua’s movie Olympus Has Fallen following a Secret Service Agent fighting to protect the President of the United States from a terrorist attack.
I had a lot of time for the first film when it came out. It was well put together, Gerard Butler was a believable action hero and it was entertaining throughout. Apparently it did so much better than expected and three years later we have a sequel from a different director.
The story this time out is that U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is one of many Western world leaders invited to the funeral of the British Prime Minister and finds himself in the middle of an expertly coordinated terrorist attack that kills many of the other leaders and has him constantly pursued by people driven to make him join them. There’s hope for President Asher as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is by his side at all times making sure that no harm comes to him.
In terms of narrative it’s not going to win any awards for originality or being clever in any way but it’s a decent enough frame to hang the action scenes on. It’s an action movie after all, not a political thriller so a flimsy story can largely be forgiven since it does nothing but put the characters in the situation that will play out over the course of the film.
The downside to this is that there’s an awful lot of time spent setting up the whole thing. I found the first half hour or so to be painfully dull. Nothing seemed to be going anywhere and it was hard to care about what was going on since the characters were so stock. The world leaders in particular stood out as being painful stereotypes so it all started feeling very clumsy.
Once it gets going things really improve. Gerard Butler does a great job carrying the film by being a believable action hero and leading man. This sort of film suits him perfectly as he has a presence that really works. His one liners may be corny but they are delivered with such commitment that it’s hard not to enjoy them. Butler seems to be having a blast and the two films in this series suggest that this is a viable franchise for him. Maybe the next entry shouldn’t have him protecting the President from impossible odds again but there’s plenty of scope to give him something else to do.
Much of the action was competently handled with a distinct lack of “shaky cam” or “rapid cutting” to distract from what was supposed to be happening. There’s a solid mix of guns, knives and hand to hand to create a lot of variety and the audience is never left wanting for a fight to break out for too long. Like in the first film many of the action sequences took place in the dark which made things a little difficult to follow some of the time but confusion was rare and short lived so I can’t hold it against the film too much.
Some sequences have some really dodgy CGI to the point where it looks embarrassingly fake. Usually I can role with that sort of thing but it was some of the worst Green Screen work I’ve seen in recent memory and any daytime effects shots had an irritating artificial quality to them. These are fairly few and far between but it’s enough to be noticeable.
The other actors don’t fare quite as well as they are broadly underused. Aaron Eckhart is fine as the President but isn’t given much to do beyond being the square jawed Damsel in Distress. The same failing exists in the first film as we are left wondering what makes him worth protecting other than who he is. Morgan Freeman is barely in the film and has much less impact on the plot than he did in the first one. Angela Bassett suffers a similar fate with so little screen time that the script may as well not have bothered including her.
Another weakness in the film is the villains. They are barely featured and the front man Kamran Barkawi (Waleed Zuaiter) fails to be threatening at any point. In general the villains felt like an endless sea of henchmen for Banning to tear through in his mission to protect the President. If it had been framed that way from the outset then it would have been fine but the half baked attempt to create an antagonist didn’t really work.
An entertaining sequel with a solid leading man performance from Gerard Butler and competently handled action sequences. The story is paper thin, it has terrible villains and many of the actors are underused but this proves to be a viable franchise for Butler who is the perfect fit for a film like this. You could definitely do a lot worse for an action film as it’s very easy to watch with a lot of great moments.
- Gerard Butler’s likable leading man performance
- competently handled action sequences
- cheesy one liners that are well delivered
- many of the actors being underused
- dodgy CGI