As the credits to London Has Fallen started to roll, my friend turned to me and said, “You know, I think that might have been the second best video game movie I’ve ever seen.” We’ve been friends for years now, and he and I pretty much had the exact same thought. London Has Fallen is a barely worthwhile action thriller that ultimately seems to miss its own point. In fact, the film could have used the more artistic touches of someone like Michael Bay (yes, seriously) behind the camera. It’s not the worst movie you’ll ever see, but it’s one of the most unnecessary. And as movies about America kicking a bunch of terrorists’ asses go, there are many better ones to choose from.
London Has Fallen is the sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, the latest in Hollywood’s never-ending line of Die Hard clones. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Olympus managed to somehow still make a mark for itself, and even managed to be the higher grossing of that year’s “terrorist in the White House” films – the other being White House Down. Olympus Has Fallen ultimately ended up being a fun action thrill ride that had no real lasting value. The sequel retains most of the surviving cast from the first film but finds a new director in Babak Nafaji.
Gerard Butler returns as Mike Banning, the cocky and unstoppable Secret Service agent who protects the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart). Facing an imminent fatherhood, Banning is ready to retire. But when the British Prime Minister unexpectedly dies, Banning finds himself organizing presidential security at the funeral. London, being a crowded city already, is nearly strangled with the influx of delegates and overburdened with managing their security restrictions. And of course, the funeral does not go off without a hitch. A massive terrorist attack decimates nearly every landmark and succeeds in eliminating most of the world leaders, forcing Banning and the President to go on the run.
Nothing in this film is particularly new or original, and the CGI spectacle is only marginally better than its predecessor. And if you’ve ever seen any action movie ever, you’ll be able to spot the character beats coming. The attack on D.C. in the first film was, speaking as a resident, frighteningly realistic in its depiction. London’s initial attack is equally effective though I wonder if I’d feel more distress being a resident. However, in London’s attack, there feels like a bit more spectacle. When D.C. fell there were many civilians murdered which gave it more of an impact.
Once Banning and the President are on the run the rest of the good guys look into the mystery of the attack. Again, I stress that if you’ve ever seen any action movie ever, you can likely pick out what’s coming next. You’ll know who dies next, and when people say something fate-tempting like, “We’re safe now”, you know that this is anything but the case. Most of the acting is fine for what it is, Melissa Leo thankfully is restrained here unlike her outing in the first film. Morgan Freeman once again is a touch of class who’s given little to do, but does it with enough confidence. Eckhart…well.. acts like he’s getting hit well. Charlotte Riley is woefully underutilized as an MI6 contact, but she does well enough in her brief moments.
My biggest problem is Butler though. Clearly in this second outing, they were trying to channel the spirit of Die Hard’s John McClane. In the first film the comparison made itself, but by London Has Fallen he’s trying way too hard. At first, it worked well, but by the fifth or sixth time that Banning acts like an obnoxious American it feels incredibly forced. By the end of the film, Butler didn’t even really seem to be trying to hide his accent. I started the film off happy to have him back, but by the end I was rolling my eyes.
The setting of London also feels wasted. The first half of the film uses the iconic geography well, but once the sun sets it feels like every other city. The final shootout takes place in what could have been the blandest location ever. And much like Olympus Has Fallen, once the sun sets, there are far too many scenes that are dark. As in too dark to see anything. I never understood how the person who lights these films gets a job. London Has Fallen does have a well-shot action scene near the end of the film, and the individual action moments are overall pretty good. But aside from the alley fight near the end, nothing else in it stands out.
Which is something else to be said for the villains. They aren’t very memorable either. And the finale seems to miss the point. I’ll refrain from major spoilers but suffice to say, drone warfare was involved.
London Has Fallen isn’t very bad. It’s just not even that memorable in the first place. The unnecessary jingoism, terribly lit scenes are back, but this time, the script tries a little too hard. It’s also a very short film, and the most interesting characters feel underutilized. I like to imagine there is more that was cut, but the reality is probably that this was a cut & paste sequel. That being said, there is some perverse pleasure out of watching Gerard Butler bring righteous fury down on those evil terrorists, assuming you ignore his torture methods and their middle finger to American foreign policy. If the film at all interests you, you’ll find it probably a fine way to kill 98 minutes. If you want more, then maybe it’s time to revisit Air Force One again.
Loud, predictable, and ultimately pretty unnecessary.6
Acting score 6
Story score 6
Music & SFX score 8