Review: ‘London Has Fallen’

dfn-london_has_fallen-poster-300The unluckiest U.S. President in history stumbles into another life or death situation in London Has Fallen, which feeds on populist fears about terrorism and celebrates wanton murder and other violent acts with wild abandon.

None of this will be any surprise to those who saw Olympus Has Fallen (2013), a rabble-rousing action movie directed by Antoine Fuqua with elegant brute force. The sequel is again penned by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, this time with the collaboration of Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John. Fuqua has been replaced in the director’s chair by Babak Najafi, who follows the pattern set by Fuqua.

Most surviving characters from Olympus Has Fallen reprise their roles, led by secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), whose friendship with President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) has only deepened. Mike’s character description reads as though it were written by an 8-year-old child: he’s the bestest, toughest, and smartest agent in the world.

Mike suspects something suspicious is up when the British Prime Minister dies and nearly all the world’s leaders head to London to attend the funeral. It’s almost as though Mike is a cowboy in the Old West, gazing upon an empty landscape and intoning: ‘It’s quiet, too quiet,’ just before a tribe of Native Americans suddenly appear and kill everyone.

Sure enough, Mike’s suspicions prove true as a massive, unbelievably well-coordinated attack is launched across London, killing all the world leaders save for President Asher, who survives only because of Mike, who is impervious to bullets and explosions. Even Mike’s boss, secret service chief Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), crumples under the pressure, but not Mike! Nothing gets him down.

As established in the first film, Mike is a superhero of sorts, and having that in mind makes it much easier to swallow all the ridiculous actions that unfold on screen. As a superhero in a business suit, protected only by kevlar body armor, he is able to dodge nearly all those flying bullets. And it’s a good thing he’s insisted President Asher run every day for “exercise,” we presume, because President Asher is very good at running when Mike tells him to run, and is pretty accurate when he’s handed a firearm, which is either something I forgot from the original or that Mike taught him on the side.

The terrorist activity is masterminded by Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), whose particular motivation for the attack is laid out in the opening sequence of the movie, as his daughter’s wedding is bombed by a U.S. military drone. That allow Barkawi to express his righteous indignation, but gains him no sympathy, or even empathy, from anyone.

The scale of the attack is extreme and the filmmakers are careful to show the widespread destruction of nearly ‘every recognizable landmark’ as a news report details. Terrorists somehow managed to infiltrate every branch of the British military and local law enforcement, thereby delaying any actionable response by U.S. government officials and leaving Mike to battle it out for the soul of the free world.

Or something like that. As a political drama, London Has Fallen sticks pretty close to a reactionary position, as in ‘kill them all and let God sort it out later.’ Everyone is a suspected terrorist, enabling Mike to kill them all and ask questions never. It makes for an invigorating cinematic experience for those with a taste for dumb, violent, 1980s-style action movies. Yet it’s a distinctly uncomfortable and possibly offensive movie for anyone opposed to the idea of violence replacing thoughtful discussion.

The film opens wide in theaters throughout Dallas on Friday, March 4.