Review: LONDON HAS FALLEN, Rocking The Free World With Dubious Politics And Sadistic Tendencies
Gerard Butler finds himself taking up arms to save Aaron Eckhart’s US President once again in this expanded sequel to Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen. Trading the claustrophobic confines of the White House for the deserted streets of Britain’s terrorised capital, London Has Fallen is every bit as violent, preposterous, xenophobic and entertaining as fans of its predecessor could wish for.
When the British Prime Minister dies, the world’s leaders descend on London for a high-profile state funeral, only to be caught in a grand-scale terrorist attack that leaves many of them dead. The culprit is quickly revealed to be Middle Eastern warmonger Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), whose family was targeted by a G8-authorised drone strike. With an army of extremists on the ground, who have infiltrated all levels of British law enforcement, Barkawi plans to capture President Asher (Eckhart) and broadcast his execution to the world.
Fortunately Asher has his top Secret Service agent and all-round best-bro Mike Banning (Butler) by his side, which is fortunate because the expectant father was ready to quit right before this last-minute assignment came up. With the British capital on lockdown and its security compromised, it is up to Banning to get the Prez to safety, cutting a swathe through Barkawi’s sea of faceless goons in frequently visceral fashion.
When Olympus Has Fallen opened back in 2013 it was largely dismissed in favour of Roland Emmerich’s flashier, sassier White House Down, which appeared on the scene a few months later with the younger, sexier Channing Tatum protecting Jamie Foxx’s streetwise Commander in Chief from a similar domestic threat. While London Has Fallen obviously ups the stakes of its predecessor, it remains something of a throwback to the trashy, preposterous action flicks of the Eighties, which is arguably its most endearing quality.
Directed by Iranian-born Babak Najafi (Easy Money 2, TV's Banshee), after Fuqua was unavailable and Fredrik Bond departed shortly before shooting began, London Has Fallen was shot primarily in Bulgaria for Millennium Films. Emerging from the ashes of The Cannon Group, Millennium is very much continuing in the same spirit, producing modestly-budgeted action vehicles for stars like Sylvester Stallone and Scott Adkins, most notably The Expendables franchise.
London Has Fallen displays the same disregard for political correctness and good taste as such Cannon classics as The Delta Force and the Death Wish sequels. The film portrays “foreigners” in the broadest of terms imaginable (the French and Italian prime ministers are particularly laughable), while its politics are the worst kind of Reagan era American jingoism. It matters not at all that the action plays out in England - this is merely a vaguely exotic backdrop for the Free World to rally behind the safety of the POTUS.
Politics aside, London Has Fallen embraces its action obligations with almost fanboy enthusiasm, kitting out Banning and Asher with enough handguns, sharp stabbing weapons and derogatory one-liners to make a one man army blush. As a result, those looking for a nostalgic 90 minutes of gratuitous mayhem should walk away (perhaps with something large exploding behind them) feeling pretty happy with what they have just witnessed.
The screenplay, penned by original scribes Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt together with Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John, is riddled with plotholes, inconsistencies and limp explanations almost from the get-go (with a man on the ground, how did the G8 not know Barkawi’s family was present? Would a single plea to “stay in your homes” really empty London's streets? What was stopping Banning & Asher from taking a car/boat/train and simply leaving the city? The mole’s motives were what exactly?), but clearly nobody involved in making the film felt these matters were important, so audiences probably shouldn’t either.
While larger-scale sequences do suffer from an over-reliance on sub-par CGI, the film’s more grounded action sequences work surprisingly well. Particularly towards the film’s climax there are a number of long single takes that showcase some impressive choreography and do a great job of building the film’s momentum. Butler’s numerous hand-to-hand encounters also reverberate with crunching bones and skewered flesh to a degree largely absent from today's mainstream action films.
London Has Fallen includes an extensive but largely superfluous supporting cast that includes returning star power from the first film - Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster - as well as fresh blood like Colin Salmon, Jackie Earle Haley and Charlotte Riley, but nobody gets much of a look-in. This is Butler’s show, and in an era overrun by comic book characters with superhuman strength that borders on the magical, it’s reassuring to know there are still real action heroes out there, albeit ones with dubious politics and sadistic tendencies.
London Has Fallen
- Babak Najafi
- Creighton Rothenberger (based on characters created by)
- Katrin Benedikt (based on characters created by)
- Creighton Rothenberger (story by)
- Katrin Benedikt (story by)
- Creighton Rothenberger (screenplay)
- Katrin Benedikt (screenplay)
- Christian Gudegast (screenplay)
- Chad St. John (screenplay)
- Alon Aboutboul
- Waleed Zuaiter
- Adel Bencherif
- Mehdi Dehbi