London Has Fallen
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter, Mehdi Debhi, Colin Salmon, Charlotte Riley, Patrick Kennedy, Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster | Screenwriters: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast & Chad St. John | Director: Babak Najafi
After saving the White House and the President from certain doom in Olympus Has Fallen, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning returns to ensure the safety of the Commander in Chief yet again during a high profile visit to England. An international criminal the world believed was dead lurks in the shadows and awaits the perfect opportunity to seek revenge on every leader who rubber-stamped his (failed) execution. With the city burning all around them, Banning and President Asher spend 24 hours in London avoiding the wrath of a man possessed.
Let’s get to the meat of the film: this is war porn, straight up. Not in the traditional sense, but urban warfare is warfare nonetheless. Depending on one’s personal experiences and political leanings, a lot could be interpreted about London Has Fallen’s violence, portrayal of Western/Eastern relations and villainizing of ethnic characters. While there wasn’t an outright slant on Middle-Eastern culture and the fundamentalism that runs rampant in numerous countries, London wasn’t above employing the use of hundreds of Arabic/ethnic actors as cannon fodder for Butler’s character’s bloodlust.
Others could also argue that casting a Middle Eastern villain with vast resources is a play on our very reality and not a feeble excuse by execs to racially distinguish good guys from bad like action films of yore. In fact, no one in the film is ‘good’ in the literal sense. A summit of world leaders approved the elimination of Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutaboul), a reviled weapons dealer.
Only problem is the scheduled drone strike occurred during his daughter’s wedding, killing hundreds. It’s a sympathetic plight for many who never intended to become victims of an ongoing war. The weight of such matters is too much for London to bear and resorts to composing one-dimensional “villains” who kill indiscriminately because Aamir paid them well, not because of religious duty (thank Christ).
Nonetheless, director Babak Najafi is perfectly suited for the material as evidenced by his episodes in Banshee and Banshee: Origins. Najafi has the unique skill of maintaining a quick pulse throughout his work without compromising narrative. Despite having the redundancy of four screenwriters attached to London, the plot itself is as straightforward as can be for an action film, which benefits greatly from Najafi’s vision. While Gerard’s Banning makes short work of entire teams of terrorists, Najafi focuses on keeping the action quick and efficient, with the occasional POV and tracking shots to place the audience in the thick of multiple firefights.
In the midst of this controlled chaos is a seemingly unyielding, near-invulnerable death dealer in Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, reprised by Gerard Butler. While an embattled agent seeking redemption in Olympus Has Fallen, Banning is back in the graces of President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and feels awfully comfortable dropping ‘fucks’ and ‘goddamns’ all over the White House. Unlike contemporaries such as John McClane, Martin Riggs and Bryan Mills, this White Knight knows he’s badass and gets away with a lot. If Banning was to be accurately compared to other action heroes, he’s the love child of John Rambo and Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China but with a far saltier disposition.
Before the bedlam, Banning and SSA Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) are naturally uncomfortable with the situation that brings them to England, given it wasn’t long ago in this series’ history a rogue faction of North Koreans raised holy hell on their own yard. Every major dignitary of the Western world is planning to be in attendance with their own security forces, so the odds of it being a smooth operation are already close to nil. Enter the endless legion of mercenaries and London is hell on earth in no time flat. Ironically, those first four minutes of the terror cells enacting their highly coordinated, simultaneous attacks on world leaders is accomplished in such a dramatic and graphic fashion, it’s almost too much action.
Although it isn’t entirely incredulous, the level of sophistication and infiltration accomplished by the terrorists almost escapes reality. That notion however could be attributed to our own hubris and ignorance about how damn easy it is to cripple an entire city, or nation for that matter. All one needs, like the leader of the opposing force, is an adequate amount of time and determination.
In seconds, every sleeper agent was awakened to take down historical landmarks and critical systems. Thank the Lord and Clint Eastwood that Mike Banning was around to become a one-man wrecking crew. In nearly every scene after the initial ambush of the Secret Service, Mike laid waste to dozens of henchmen with a single clip or with his trusty knife Clarabell (there wasn’t a name for his blade, but let’s roll with it). It wouldn’t be a Gerard Butler film without him talking shit to his opponent seconds before or during his death.
In the end, London Has Fallen is everything audiences expect from a big budget action film: massive explosions, light on exposition, an affable lead and a thunderous conclusion. Of all the features studios have attempted to turn into franchises, Fallen does have some legs. For Focus Features, it’s all about finding the right formula that allows Banning to evolve rather than become a farcical take of himself, like the unfortunate turn of Liam Neeson’s Taken series.
For now, sit back, relax and enjoy all the ridiculous amount of gunfire!
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London Has Fallen
In the same regard as Men In Black II, London Has Fallen is a more of spectacle that lost a bit of the impact and emotional investment that made the first film an acceptable popcorn flick. Bigger doesn’t necessary mean better (#thatswhatshesaid) as is the case in London. Butler held the film together admirably by fashioning an imposing, battle-hardened, take-no-shit Mike Banning. The supporting cast was also quite efficient in progressing the narrative with concentrated performances due to their limited screen time. As far as sequels go, this is a decent continuation of a series (of sorts) that originally appeared to be a one-off.
It wouldn’t be surprising if a third Fallen is greenlit. Although I don’t see how Butler’s Mike Banning can take down whole countries if the next installment is about a hijacked planet.