Angel Has Fallen, 2019.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh.
Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston, Mark Arnold, and Frederick Schmidt.
Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is framed for the attempted assassination of the President and must evade his own agency and the FBI as he tries to uncover the real threat.
After surviving two huge terrorist attacks, Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent Mike Banning returns to the big screen in Angel Has Fallen, the second sequel to Olympus Has Fallen that slightly changes up the premise to offer something different to audiences. It’s an entertaining enough action film that tries to emphasize its characters and the struggles they deal with, but ultimately doesn’t live up to its potential due to its predictable plot and somewhat confusing action sequences.
In the third outing of the franchise, Mike Banning saves the President from an attempted assassination while the rest of his Secret Service unit is wiped out. Unfortunately, though, Banning is the prime suspect after evidence is uncovered linking him as the mastermind of the foiled attempt. On the run from his own service and the FBI, Banning has to uncover the real people behind the plot while dealing with the physical and mental strain his body has come under after the events of the previous films.
Butler delivers a good performance as Banning in Angel Has Fallen as he explores the vulnerability to him. There’s much less threatening posturing from him in this film as Banning has to face the reality that he’s not as spry as he used to be. The personal problems in Banning’s life gives Butler room to stretch out more and he does well showing a more human side to the secret service agent. The film tries to deconstruct the aging action hero trope and does so fairly well through him and Danny Huston, though it still doesn’t go as deep as it could as it just scratches the surface of Banning’s ailments.
Of the rest of the cast, Danny Huston carries his usual charisma in the film as one of Banning’s oldest friends. He and Butler share some good scenes early on that establishes their relationship well as both actors work nicely off each other. Adding to Banning’s personal problems is Nick Nolte as his reclusive father Clay, a man so scarred by war he abandoned his family and prefers living off the grid in the middle of nowhere. Nolte adds some fun elements to the film as Banning’s father and is used to further examine the various tolls men like them take through their professions, offering himself as a twisted reflection of Banning. Nolte and Butler share some pretty good chemistry together and while the role is one of the more light-hearted points of the time at times, Nolte knows when to pull back and focus on the seriousness of Clay’s mental state.
Of the rest of the cast, the returning Morgan Freeman as the now-President Trumbull isn’t actually in the movie a whole lot, but Freeman delivers his usual amount of gravitas with the limited screentime he has. Replacing Randha Mitchell as Banning’s wife is Piper Perabo, who is paired well with both Butler and Nolte as she adequately picks up the torch and plays a more sizeable role. Jada Pinkett-Smith joins as Helen Thompson, the FBI agent charged with capturing Banning, but she’s not given very much material to work with. In fact, the film seems much less concerned with the hunt against Banning that it and Pinkett-Smith almost become a non-issue, especially in the latter half of the story.
On that note, the film’s story flows well enough, but it progresses much slower than either Olympus or London Has Fallen. Part of that is to account for the deconstruction of Banning and part of it is because of the nature of the plot. Unlike the previous films, Angel Has Fallen relies less on huge spectacle to move the plot along with the bad guys playing things much more low-key until the third act. Some aspects with the story could have been better fleshed out though, such as the hunt against Banning as the initial conclusion of his guilt comes pretty fast and Agent Thompson looks increasingly more foolish with some of the choices she and the FBI make. Given the fact of Banning’s service and actions in the franchise, it would be hard to believe he’s responsible for the assassination attempt, but that is hardly brought up at all.
Angel Has Fallen does attempt to rise above the typical ‘save the president’ formula as it includes more intriguing aspects to the story. It gets pretty topical at some points as it talks about subjects like election meddling and paramilitary forces. The change is actually a bit refreshing since the villains add a bit more to the plot, though the commentary on current American or global politics doesn’t come close to scratching the surface. It’s also predictable as it’s very easy to call who is setting up Banning and really plotting Trumball’s demise. The film doesn’t keep those cards close to its chest nearly as well as it thinks it does.
Despite the lack of depth in some of the story, the film is still fairly entertaining even with the slow burn it employs. Director Ric Roman Waugh crafts some cool action scenes, particularly in the third act, and uses explosions galore throughout the film. There’s one sequence at the midpoint where Nolte sets off explosives for what is likely a solid minute of explosion after explosion. The only weakness of the action scenes is that the choreography and editing could be better. Banning’s initial escape, for instance, is so dark and uses a lot of quick cuts that it’s very hard to follow. That unfortunately applies to some of the action in the third act as it’s difficult at points to tell who is who or what exactly is happening. Considering how well the action was done in Olympus and London, Angel Has Fallen‘s action doesn’t quite stand up to what it’s offering.
By changing the formula with the nature of the villains and its examination of Banning’s personal struggles, Angel Has Fallen tries to elevate itself beyond the typical set-up of the franchise and for the most part succeeds in that regard. Butler gives a good performance as he explores new layers to his Secret Service hero while, in most cases, the supporting cast compliment him well. Where the film doesn’t shine as strong is in some elements to the story and action, creating an entertaining if flawed film that doesn’t live up to the franchise’s best moments. It certainly adds to the franchise and character of Banning, but Angel Has Fallen falls short of its lofty goals.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★