London Has Fallen Review

LHS Review

The sequel no one asked for but, at the same time, no one is really mad about arrives this weekend: London Has Fallen. No, it's not a sequel to White House Down, that one starred Channing Tatum as the bodyguard and Jamie Foxx as the President. It's the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, with Gerard Butler as the bodyguard and Aaron Eckhart as the President. Yes, they did come out back to back, and though both were ultimately forgettable, Olympus Has Fallen was the better of the two so at least it was the one to get the sequel.

Remembering Olympus may truly be a challenge for many audiences but for brief refresher purposes, let's reflect. In Olympus Has Fallen, Butler's Mike Banning character was a disgraced Secret Service agent who found himself trapped in the White House with President Asher during a large scale terrorist attack. Luckily for the President, Banning has a set of skills similar to Bryan Mills of Taken which come in handy in deadly situations. The two made it out alive and went on to officially become the most unlucky pair of President and bodyguard in American history for a sequel.

This time around, President Asher and Mike Banning are back but they're heading to international territories for a world leader's funeral. In the time since Olympus Has Fallen, though, President Asher authorized a missile strike on a terrorist location. Instead of killing his target, though, he only took out his target's family, leaving Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) really, really pissed off. So pissed, in fact, that he spent all two years recruiting and plotting a way to take out the U.S. President on a narcissistic live broadcast.

A few minutes into the film we're given all the reasons to care for our characters. Banning is going to be a father, Angela Bassett's Lynn Jacobs will be his child's Godmother, and Asher is the President with a kind heart. We quickly find the two under attack after arriving in London, which is portrayed as a truly nightmarish situation. Bodies drop left and right but Banning is able to escort the President from location to location as they make an effort to escape a fallen London.

The action of London Has Fallen is where it succeeds the most. Gerard Butler is basically Leonidas with guns here but he also injects it with more adrenaline and even a touch of humor. The impressive action must be also credited to director Babak Najafi. Najafi crafts some truly gritty moments and even a stylish continuous shot as Banning and British forces rally through the streets amidst intense gunfire and explosions.

For some reason, though, Najafi felt the need to put character names and government positions and time stamps in the bottom left corner of the screen at various points throughout the film. That type of spoon feeding seems almost as insulting as it is unnecessary. The rest of Fallen's dumbing down came from some extremely clunky dialogue. It's really a shame when have a voice like Morgan Freeman's being used to give a Vice Presidential speech with the line, "People died for no good reason," as if to imply the Vice President could find a good reason for people to die.

The poor dialogue is where the 'Deadpool effect' can be worrying. R-ratings make it easier for writers and actors to inject f-words and other language into their lines which would otherwise be well-written and thoughtful dialogue. London Has Fallen falls victim to this several times. No, it's not a movie we go to with expectations of Shakespearean conversations, but it's an example of how an R-rating can hurt a movies intellect.

Back to the topic of people dying, London Has Fallen does gives the audience a decent sense of the main characters actually being in a life-threatening situation. It actually gets to a point where you kind of want to see a main character bite it only because movies are afraid to avoid happy endings and while you'll always have your doubts, there are moments where Banning and Asher are in true danger and we wonder how they'll make it out alive.

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The biggest surprise of the film is not a plot point or explosion but Charlotte Riley. The actress has played parts in films like Edge of Tomorrow and In the Heart of the Sea but in London she is MI6 agent Jacquelin Marshall. From the moment Riley enters the film, she dominates her time on screen and feels like the most grounded character in the film. Though a considerably smaller part than most others featured in the film, Riley makes her presence known with a welcoming, women-can-kick-ass-too attitude.

Bottom Line: While London Has Fallen does touch each of the bases for an action movie home run, it's definitely more of a solo shot than a grand slam. 7.1/10