London Has Fallen

Posted by Joel Copling on March 3, 2016

There was a fetishistic quality to the violence in 2013's "Olympus Has Fallen" that was borderline off-putting. Antoine Fuqua's film, which detailed the procedural infiltration of the White House by Korean nationalists and the subsequent saving of the President of the United States by an individual in his protection detail, was nothing more than a shameless retread of the "Die Hard" formula, but the action was, on occasion, staged in the truly unnerving manner of being caressed by a lover. By employing a different, grittier aesthetic in similar sequences and widening its scope to the titular center of the United Kingdom, "London Has Fallen" greatly improves on its predecessor--although that's still setting the bar for trumping low.

Nothing in the earlier film is even referenced in this follow-up, suggesting that co-screenwriters Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John were perhaps collaborating on a film that did not include the characters created by fellow scribs Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. Small details have remained the same, largely through implication, such as the fact that President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is no longer accompanied by the late First Lady and that Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the aforementioned protective Secret Service agent, is once again on his payroll (though about to leave it once more for a life of domesticity with his own wife, played by Radha Mitchell, who is pregnant with their first child).

There are also return appearances by Morgan Freeman as Vice President Trumbull, Robert Forster as General Clegg, Melissa Leo as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan, and Angela Bassett as Banning's boss (and future godmother to his child) Lynne Jacobs, none of whom has much to do here but sit in a situation room and react as London goes to Hell. The attack has been meticulously planned for nearly two years, ever since a drone strike on Aamir Barkawi's (Alon Moni Aboutboul) residence, where a family wedding was being hosted and his daughter (the bride-to-be) was killed. Five world leaders and hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders are massacred, and Barkawi wants President Asher's broadcast execution to be his end game.

"London Has Fallen" starts without much promise and to such a degree of that lack of promise that it stains a solid second half. Director Babak Najafi (his inauspicious, English-language debut) and cinematographer Ed Wild might approach the action sequences (including one accomplished via impressive single-take trickery just before the real climax kicks in) with some visual flair, but they, the screenwriters, and editors Michael J. Duthie and Paul Martin Smith botch all attempts at compelling drama surrounding these sequences. The actors do their best and the film picks up at the back end with some genuinely well-crafted tension, but it ultimately goes in the direction of the familiar and predictable.

Film Information

Gerard Butler (Mike Banning), Aaron Eckhart (President Benjamin Asher), Morgan Freeman (Vice President Trumbull), Alon Aboutboul (Aamir Barkawi), Charlotte Riley (Jacquelin Marshall), Colin Salmon (Chief Hazard), Radha Mitchell (Leah Banning), Angela Bassett (Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs), Waleed Zuaiter (Kamran Barkawi), Jackie Earle Haley (Mason), Robert Forster (Gen. Clegg), Melissa Leo (Ruth McMillan).

Directed by Babak Najafi and written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast, and Chad St. John.

Rated R (violence, language throughout).

99 minutes.

Released on March 4, 2016.