Mark Reviews Movies

London Has Fallen


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Babak Najafi

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alon Aboutboul, Charlotte Riley, Colin Salmon, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Waleed Zuaiter, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout)

Running Time: 1:39

Release Date: 3/4/16

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 3, 2016

It has been less than four months since a group of terrorists executed a well-organized assault on Paris, and now we have London Has Fallen, a movie about a group of terrorists executing a well-organized assault on the international metropolis of the title. The timing could be worse, although not much.

The filmmakers aren't to blame, of course. The screenplay was written well before the attack in Paris last year, and the shooting of the movie was likely completed before then, too. If there's blame to be passed around for the timing, it rests on the studio for going forward with the release, but that assumes there is blame to be passed to people. Movies, obviously, don't exist in a vacuum, although it's pretty clear that the people behind this particular movie would rather audiences act as if they do.

Audiences might see it that way, too, because, while the world mostly has caught up to the movie's fictional premise, the movie itself still has an exaggerated setup. It's an exploitative one, yes, but that's nothing new.

The studio's bet that people will have forgotten about Paris by the time they see this movie is probably a good one. The span of our collective memory for horrific tragedy seems to have become shorter nowadays.

Let us pretend, then, that London Has Fallen does exist in a vacuum, or at least let's imagine that the vacuum also contains its predecessor Olympus Has Fallen, in which terrorists took over the White House. Simply acknowledging the existence of the previous film is more than the characters do here. They seem to have forgotten the events of the last film.

No one mentions them. The White House itself seems to have recovered just fine. If not for the fact that the same actors are playing the same characters, one really could look at this movie as its own entity (The screenplay may have been co-written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, who also wrote the script for the first film, but it often feels as if the characters have been transplanted into the screenplay for an unrelated story—perhaps one written by the other co-screenwriters Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John). Even then, it probably would seem superfluous.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the head of the Secret Service detail for the President of the United States, returns, and he's just as foul-mouthed and in love with his knife as he was before. He and his wife (Radha Mitchell) have a baby on the way, and Mike is hesitantly preparing to send in his letter of resignation.

Then the British Prime Minister dies. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) will be joining 39 other world leaders to attend the funeral in London. Before the service begins, a terrorist group, led by Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), unleashes its attack, seeking revenge for a drone strike two years prior that killed Aamir's daughter. In the process, they kill an assortment of presidents and prime ministers in a sequence that topples a tower of Westminster Abbey, blows out the windows of Parliament, and sends London Bridge falling into the River Thames.

The primary reason the previous film worked—despite its equally throwaway plot—was its use of a single, singular location, but once these and other landmarks of London are destroyed or otherwise violated, the city becomes as anonymous and forgotten as the countless innocent casualties of the attack. The location could be any city, real or imagined, for all the movie's setpieces are concerned.

Mike and the President are the sole survivors of a rocket attack on the President's helicopter and its decoys, leading the duo to run, drive, and fight through a park, some streets, the subway, and a couple of buildings. Meanwhile, the Vice President (Morgan Freeman) and the Cabinet are trying to organize a way to rescue Asher, and Scotland Yard is trying to figure out how they missed the warning signs. Also, there's a subplot about a mole inside the government that is as obvious and useless as it is underdeveloped and hastily resolved.

None of this really matters, because the movie only cares about getting Mike and Asher into situations in which Mike gets to kill a bunch of bad guys—the more brutally, by the movie's estimations, the better. Dark and repetitive, the action sequences are routine and incomprehensible (Even a faux one-take siege on the terrorist headquarters doesn't make much sense on a logistical level, because director Babak Najafi just wants to show off the gimmicky camerawork). Mike once again seems more of the tune of a sociopath than a hero, offering one-liner responses—usually just cussing—before or after dispatching a villain by means of knife, gun, or, in one instance, the stone support of an overpass. The character becomes a reflection of the movie's political sensibilities—shortsighted, angry, and purely reactive.

The locale may have expanded from the previous film, but the sequel feels restricted by the relatively bigger scale. London Has Fallen may have a larger backdrop, but the movie only utilizes it to offer bloody, generic violence, absent of any awareness of the real world.

Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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