London Has Fallen, 2016
Directed by Babak Najafi.
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell, Patrick Kennedy, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Charlotte Riley, Shivani Ghai, Mehdi Dehbi, Waleed Zuaiter, Alon Aboutboul, Jackie Earle Haley, and Michael Wildman.
In London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders.
It’s easy to see why London Has Fallen is quickly drawing passionate ire from many film critics and moviegoers around the world; it is unabashedly patriotic ‘America, fuck yeah’ propaganda, but to embrace the movie as a serious political statement is absurd. Is there really no room left for a dumb action movie anymore? Has political correctness really run that rampant, to the point where a movie depicting a Middle Eastern Isis reminiscent villain acting out as a terrorist is offensive? Even when that movie is really nothing more than a vehicle for Gerard Butler to get a paycheck (Aaron Eckhart too considering the guy’s career has been on life support after The Dark Knight) and deliver some cringey fun one-liners?
Look, I won’t defend that London Has Fallen is a pretty bad movie. There is seriously a line where Morgan Freeman (Vice President of the United States) literally says the film’s villain is responsible for more deaths than the plague. The writing is absolutely abysmal and will have you laughing your head off, but that is the point. London Has Fallen isn’t intending to be deep or thought-provoking, it isn’t inspiring people to enlist in the Army and go fight terror, or pouring more gasoline on the fire that is racial tension; it’s an action movie where America is the good guys and bad people want to hurt the president.
Hollywood has made these movies for years (some of them are beloved cult classics) and they aren’t going to stop now. Is it jingoistic? Absolutely, but the self-awareness involved makes London Has Fallen go down as a wholly amusing but forgettable action spectacle. Outside of 300, this franchise is about the only thing Gerard Butler is good for. Aaron Eckhart too for that matter. They share great chemistry as bodyguard and president, often making ridiculous jokes after shootouts or spitting out one-liner after one-liner after killing someone.
Does it ever go too far? Admittedly yes. There’s a moment towards the end were Gerard Butler is relentlessly beating the shit out of a villain, going on a rant about how America has been here for 1,000 years and will always be here, or something to that effect, but either way, it felt a bit overdone and unnecessary. So do remarks like “go back to Fuckhead-istan or wherever you are from” after blowing someone’s brains out. Still, all in all, it’s pointless getting offended, because London Has Fallen has no aspirations other than being cheesy, dumb fun that will undoubtedly, to an extent, satisfy anyone who grew up watching 80s action films.
The first act of the movie does feature far too many explosions (bridges get blown up, buildings get blown up, bombs go off, missiles strike vehicles) making for a rocky and off-putting start. Literally everyone but the American president (all of the nation’s world leaders have gathered in London to pay respects to a recently deceased British Prime Minister) are depicted as incompetent (the Italian prime minister is sightseeing with his wife, the French Prime Minister is procrastinating on a boat, etc), obnoxiously feeding into that mentality of America being superior.
When shit hits the fan though and the film is finally allowed to focus on Gerard Butler doing what he does best, London Has Fallen settles into a groove that is crowd-pleasing even if despicable. There’s even a quite impressive unbroken sequence that follows Gerard Butler and a crew down streets and into ravaged buildings, mounting a suicidal rescue mission. Enemies are stabbed relentlessly in torturous fashion for information, citizens are brutally shot, and one character is even impaled by shrapnel from a plane, meaning that the film is also uproariously violent.
Is there an action sequence in the whole movie that is memorable? Hell no. The CGI of all the destruction is also atrocious. There is also a really weird twist at the end with members of the British Intelligence, as the movie needs to tie up loose ends somehow, but these scenes go on a bit too long. Realistically, the movie probably could have made better use of its London surroundings and famous locales outside showing stuff get blown up in the first 15 minutes too, considering that it’s refreshing seeing what is essentially an action disaster movie takes place not in the usual areas of America; there’s a missed opportunity to make a more of a lasting impression. Regardless, these are 99 minutes that fly by feeling like a 30 minute episode of a sitcom.
The point I’m trying to make is that you can label London Has Fallen horrendously written, racist, insensitive, loud, pointless, and objectively terrible as a film, but there is no denying that it is stupidly entertaining and heightened by Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart again making for one awesome duo. Leave your brain at the door and enjoy the ride for what it is; an exercise in fun. This is a jingoistic ride that is in on the joke.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★