London Has Fallen scene

Image courtesy of Millennium Films,
Gerard Butler Alan Siegel Entertainment, LHF Films

London Has Fallen

(And So Has the Plot)

| published May 13, 2016 |

By Maggie Nichols, Thursday Review contributor

Things can get dicey in the 2016 summer of movie sequels. There are the good ones: Captain America: Civil War , for example (and more about that one very soon!). And there are the not-so-good ones: Batman Versus Superman, for example (also more about that one soon).

London Has Fallen, a semi-sequel of sorts to Olympus Has Fallen , lands somewhere in the wide piece of screen real estate known as “better-than-average,” which is to say if you like to spend a lot of your disposable cash on the movies, and do not mind fair-to-middling stuff, then by all means check this one out. If, on the other hand, you are on a tight budget and prefer to spend your hard-earned savings only on the good stuff, take my advice and wait this one out—second-run theaters, HBO or Showtime, or rent it.

Don’t get me wrong: this is good stuff. But the subject of terror is becoming threadbare for all but the most ingenious and well-researched plotlines, and the recent glut of other high-impact action stuff on British turf, including last year’s first-rate Bond thriller Spectre, means that we may be reaching the point of overload. Nevertheless, this one is worth reviewing, if only briefly.

The plot is simple: In the aftermath of the sudden passing of a British Prime Minister, the President of the U.S. (Aaron Eckhart) and his entourage travel to England to attend the funeral. Since many of the world’s top leaders will be in attendance, and since scores of meetings between heads of state have been planned, all the predictable security steps are taken—along with many ingenious cautionary measures and high tech counter-measures as well.

Still, terror finds its way into the story. Bomb blasts and gunshots kill scores of leaders, and President Benjamin Asher—along with his security guy Mike Banning (Gerard Butler, also brought forward from the first film)—must evade the well-armed and well-coordinated terrorist, who are now bent on tracking the President as he and others move on foot throughout London.

The terrorists—we learn early in the movie—have deep links to dangerous hot spots in Yemen, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, and other Middle Eastern cauldrons. Bomb blasts also destroy several London landmarks, adding to the death toll. The President and his top Secret Service agent then play a deadly, violent game of cat and mouse—ducking into subway stations, dashing here and there, shooting bad guys along the way (the total number of terrorists in this film exceeded my ability to keep track), even battling a fake Delta Team made up of more bad guys—all the while trying to get word back to Washington that in the chaos they are in fact still alive.

So the movie becomes a familiar retread: Die Hard Parts 1 through 22, sort of, Clear and Present anger, or almost any action movie starring Jason Stratham, most notably the Transporter films. In this vein, there are all the predictable elements and recognizable plot twists, along with eye popping explosions and high-decibel gunfights.

Another problem is that the acting is sub-par, even for the fine cast, which includes Eckhart, Angela Bassett (as the head of the Secret Service detail), and Morgan Freeman (as the Vice-President). This may be the results of director Babak Najafi’s ham-fisted handling of the screenplay, or it may be simply because the material falls short. In either case, there is an attempt to overcome problems with the weak script by increasing the loudness of the booms, the quantity of bullets, and the brightness of the explosions…not to mention the gruesomeness of the violence.

Rotten Tomatoes rates this one a single star out of five, and I have to agree on the whole. Though I stress that the film might be worth a look-see when it arrives to your premium channel, or goes on sale on DVD or Blu-ray.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Welcome to My Secret Lair: A Look at SPECTRE; review by Michael Bush; Thursday Review; November 26, 2016.

Point Break: Pointless Remake; Maggie Nichols; Thursday Review; January 16, 2016.