LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN Review: Consumed By Pain
Idris Elba, Cynthia Erivo and Andy Serkis star in the British thriller, written by Neil Cross, that works hard to cross from a small-screen series to a big-screen experience.
Dog chases cat chases murderous mouse.
Luther: The Fallen Sun
The film opens Friday, February 24, 2023, in select movie theaters before debuting March 10, 2023, globally on Netflix.
Breathing life into the ashes of a series that played out over nine years before concluding with its protagonist locked into prison for an extended stay, an appropriate bookend for the character and the show, creator and writer Neil Cross conjures up a neat twist to justify a stand-alone film.
Rather than a simple cat-and-mouse-thriller, Cross devises a scenario in which a dog (the London police) chases a cat (former police detective John Luther), who is chasing a mouse (mass murderer David Robey). The 'how' and the 'why' are less important to writer Cross than creating a pumped-up scenario in which the London police serve as foil to the laser-focused John Luther (Idris Elba), in a manner that parallels -- to some degree -- how the murderous Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) undermined his life and career in the series.
David Robey (Andy Serkis, reprising the role from the series) returns as antagonist, older and more diabolical than ever, with grandly theatrical plans to wreak murderous havoc on a broader scale than before. Imprisoned as he is, John Luther is more convinced than ever that he is the only one to stop the homicidal rampage, maneuvering events so he can escape from prison and capture David Robey himself, with the police doggedly lapping behind.
Now retired, Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley, also reprising his series role), Luther's former commander, comes on board in an advisory capacity at the behest of new police commander Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo). Schenk is extremely capable, and extremely righteous, yet nurses a small soft spot for Luther, because he is convinced that Luther wants to do the right thing, and has investigative instincts that outstrip every other detective.
Toss in a few wild cards, such as Odette Raine's free-range teenage daughter, Anya (Lauryn Ajufo), and the elements are in place for a gripping thriller that becomes more ambitiously outlandish as it progresses. Apparently desiring to top himself, though, writer Neil Cross keeps pushing boundaries further and further away from the London streets where the series played out, until the film is simply nasty and ridiculous.
Until the train jumps off the tracks, though, Luther: The Fallen Sun is more than capably engineered by veteran director Jamie Payne, whose many credits include the final season of Luther, the series. Idris Elba manifests his considerable acting ability and magnetic star power to wrestle yet more wrinkles out of his rough-hewn character, haunted by an ever-increasing number of ghosts.
Cynthia Erivo leans into her role as a dedicated investigator who is also a devoted mother. Andy Serkis practically cackles with wild-eyed glee as the maniacal killer. Dermot Crowley lends 'tough but fair' balance as an authority figure.
Murder on a grand scale inspires a movie on a grand scale, I suppose, but any opportunity to savor Idris Elba as John Luther is not to be ignored.
Postscript: I watched the film before watching any of the series, then watched the first episode from 2010, as well as two of the four episodes in the final fifth season from 2019. Elba's performance is remarkably good, anguished and brilliant, and Cross' plotting is unpredictable.
The first four seasons are available on the ad-free BritBox streaming service. All five seasons are available on the Hulu streaming service, both ad-free and ad-supported. The series has also spawned Russian (Klim), Korean (Less Than Evil), Indian (Rudra: The Edge of Darkness), and French (Luther) versions.