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.
Here’s a drinking game for you: take a shot for every explosion in Angel Has Fallen. This third entry in a line of throwback brainless action movies built around the gimmick of saving the president almost plays more like a fireworks display than a film, with entire sequences dedicated to racking up the body count boasting bomb after bomb going off. This element is taken so far over-the-top, that during a set-piece inside of a forest with generic henchmen closing in from all angles, a chain reaction of explosives is triggered that last on-screen for over a minute, showing us the grisly combustion of nearly everybody.
Here’s the thing, Angel Has Fallen is surprisingly entertaining popcorn fun to close out the summer movie season. I won’t be caught dead calling it necessarily a good movie, but this latest installment directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh (supposedly with intent to close things off as a trilogy, although the ending leaves much skepticism) does its job embracing action clichés while executing them with competent craftsmanship. There’s never any doubt as to who is pulling the strings or if Secret Service agent Mike Banning (who is in line for a promotion, played once again by Gerard Butler bringing angst and grit to the battered and torn soldier, now embarking on a mission to clear his name while suffering from chronic pain, concussions, and insomnia) has gone rogue (to be fair, one would have had to never have seen a movie to buy into that), and while it’s not easy to overlook such flaws, car chases, hand-to-hand combat, staging of the environments and money shots, and yes, endless explosions satisfy.
Mike is set up for attempting to assassinate Pres. Trumbull (a returning Morgan Freeman in the shoes of a character who has really climbed the political ladder across these movies); we know he didn’t do it but that doesn’t stop some truly stupid FBI agents from jumping the gun with their theories. Either they really are that dumb or have never paid attention to the Olympus and London incidents. There is also a paramilitary leader named Wade Jennings (Danny Huston) hoping that Mike’s promotion will pave the way for his army to receive more work and that war will rage on. Now, if you have been following along with the franchise, it doesn’t take a genius to notice that these movies have actually been quite regressive, playing into icky politics, xenophobia, and a tad too much of a jingoistic tone. With that in mind, Angel Has Fallen somewhat takes everything treasured and nostalgic about classic action movies of yesteryear and flips those politics on its head, making for something progressive and updated while reveling in gore and dismemberment.
There is also the much-needed, if utterly contrived, addition of Mike’s father played by Nick Nolte, a grizzled war veteran that ran out on his son and closed himself off in the woods from all society, refusing to trust the government over the simplest of concepts. During his introduction, there’s a brief stint where it feels like what you are watching has gone beyond stupid, but his chemistry and the banter between Gerard Butler and Nick Nolte are amusing bringing levity to an experience that does suffer from taking itself way too seriously sometimes. Angel Has Fallen is unfortunately far less self-aware than its predecessors, even if it does make up for that with solid action and a strong understanding of how to make the most basic action movie exciting to watch.
The movie does get better the more it goes on (as does every entry in the series); the finale takes place inside and around a hospital, complete with extraction intensity, bad guys hacking into all sorts of technology, protagonists and antagonists attempting to outsmart one another, and of course, Gerard Butler throwing himself into the fire to serve and protect his president. Angel Has Fallen is absolutely a little long clocking in at two hours, but the climax and general approach to the story are worth the price of admission. How nice of Lionsgate to basically screen the next Call of Duty campaign on the big screen.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com