Action movies, regardless of their explicit intent or savage coincidences, always tend to be a blend of entertainment, and implicitly, a political mine-field waiting to be criticized for its portrayal of the bad guys. Bad guys, no matter how hard you try to justify them, are always the main concern and heavily scrutinized subject of many critics and talks within action movies. Now, after 2013’s obsession with White House abduction movies, White House Down and the original Olympus Has Fallen, which spawned our currently reviewed London Has Fallen, its hard not to be political when the main players in the film are today’s world leaders.
In 2013, London’s predecessor Olympus Has Fallen showed a very political situation of a North Korean terrorist trying to unify Korea by capturing the American President, and using it as leverage to remove American opposition in North Korea for a South Korean invasion. While London Has Fallen does not have as much of a very intellectual plot as its original, one thing is for sure, the action, language and kick-ass Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) are amped up to mirror signature John McClane moments, but never ever quite passes them.
London Has Fallen is a less thought-out actioner, yet, the film tries to out-do its predecessor’s actions, with a smaller budget, which never boasts well for action movies. Usually, when studios give a smaller budget to sequels, their faith in the subject matter is not very convincing. Yet, London Has Fallen is a more aggressive, solid action film that Olympus on many levels, and perhaps thats because of the cast and crew’s fun with the material, rather than a serious tone found in the first film.
Rugged with grit and braun, London Has Fallen is easily a fun and mindless action movie for die-hard action movie fans, as well as passive fanfare for casual action fans to the genre as well. Filled with ridiculous one-liners, sometimes really animated and disgraceful action special effects and some serious contemplative moments of justification and reveal, London Has Fallen is the perfect post-Oscar action movie to cozy up to for the month of March.
As mentioned above, Olympus was a much more plot-heavy and politically savvy action film, while London is nothing short of a revenge film. But who is to say revenge films are bad? Anyone remember Kill Bill or Mad Max: Fury Road?
The baddie this time, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) is a arms-dealing terrorist, arming any nation or any one body, with deep enough pockets, with weapons that could take out some of the world largest and longest standing national landmarks. When his dealings get him directly entangled with the interests of the United States, the United States military orders a drone strike attack on Aamir and his family. Of course, to amp up the melodrama and emotions, despite all of the intelligence of the United States government, the day of the strike is the same day as Aamir’s youngest daughter’s wedding. Barely escaping the bombing of the United States, Aamir and his son Kamran Barkawi (Waleed Zuaiter) spend two long, hard year, devising a plan that will get their revenge and debt in blood.
Upon the news of the sudden death of the British Prime Minister, President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) along with his top personal Secret Service Agent Banning, make their way to the UK for a highly publicized funeral for the former Prime Minister. Gathering some of the biggest leaders in the world, Barkawi’s plans being to unfold, trapping leaders, bombing landmarks and killing off thousands of people, including innocent civilians, in an attempt to capturing the leader of the free world, and globally broadcasting his execution. Banning, whose steps ahead of every nations top security outlets, goes above and beyond his duties, not informing a single soul of the President’s movements and plans. His quick decisions saves the President for as long as he can, until he in inevitably captured and planned to be publicly executed for fear propaganda.
Some of the most interesting parts of London Has Fallen aren’t even within the scenes of the film, but facts surrounding the film as a whole make for one interesting little pop culture entry. Olympus, which was directed by American go-to action director Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw and The Equalizer) dropped out of the sequel, and was replaced, surprisingly by Iranian born filmmaker Babak Najafi, the man behind the Easy Money sequel and Berlin Film Festival darling Sebbe. What’s truly surprising with London is the studio’s confidence in an International director taking the reigns of a quite heavy Pro-America action film, one that has no problem showcasing the always tacky shots of the tattered American flag victoriously whisking in the wind over a sunrise or sunset. Furthermore, the film, which was pushed from an October 2015 release date, to a March 2016 release date, before the attacks on Paris in 2015, really shows the films lucky fate of avoiding a box office disaster. One has to think, are these attack still in the minds of people and will it affect its overall performance overseas?
The thing with American action films today is that, it really isn’t quite hard to come up with any original material, especially given the almost comedic current events happening in a post-Donald Trump campaign era. While many people see Trump’s rise to Presidential status as a short skit, and something out of Jay Roach’s highly underrated political comedy The Campaign in 2012, the reality is, Trump’s similarities and comparisons to Germany’s Adolf Hitler is really nothing to joke about, especially given Trump’s recent momentum in the polls and public speeches. London Has Fallen has nothing to do with politics, in fact, the film could be a film about any one man’s loyalty to a good friend or important public figure, never mind the President of the United States of America, hence making the film less about governance and more a buddy-action film.
While the budget for the sequel is, in fact, $10 million less than its original, and while many of the highly thrilling set pieces and scenes seemed undercut with production cuts and a lack of a bigger budget, the film does redeem itself greatly in a very needed and highly elaborate finale set piece. The film’s star, Butler, really has fun with Manning this time around, filling in not only as star but also producer to the film, and really delivers on his aggressive one-liners, action sequences and humour overall. While London is fast paced and highly thrilling at some parts, the film itself really flourishes as a stand alone film, more than a sequel. Many of the questions or emotions of the first film are never really translated over into this one, for example; the fact that the President was made a widow in the first film and his struggles as a single father and leader of the free world; Manning’s relationship with his now-wife Lean (Radha Mitchell), and Speaker of the White House in the first film VP Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and his promotion to VP in this film.
London Has Fallen is not a perfect film, and doesn’t have nearly as much gusto as the original Die Hard, Air Force One, or other Presidential-centred action films. What it does have, is Morgan Freeman, narration by Morgan Freeman, and some off-screen final line narration by Morgan Freeman. Okay, lets admit, Morgan Freeman can narrate anything and really elevate a film from a film to ignore, to a film that is very tolerable and watchable.
Among the inclusion of Morgan Freeman, the film also is elevated by the funny and natural chemistry between Eckhart and Butler. Within the first scenes of the film, President Asher asks his buddy and medical defining partner in crime Banning how and what he is made out of, while he easily runs past him during a routine Presidential race. Banning briskly answers “Bourbon and poor choices”, which commences the onslaught delivery of Butler’s one-liner fiesta with Eckhart.
London has Fallen is a straight-up action film, and not much else, which isn’t a bad thing. While the film brings up very interesting topics about drone striking from nations in the West, while terrorist groups in Middle Eastern countries continue and are adamant on engage in modern warfare on the ground, the film never really delves deep into these topics or discussions, and it doesn’t really need to. London Has Fallen is dedicated to macho in all of us. Keeping in mind, the film uses many clever and contemporary and modern marketing techniques of very recent action films, including a line thats almost taken word-for-word from Liam Neeson’s Taken and a slowed-downed and very intimately piano version of “London Bridge is Falling Down”, London Has Fallen is hard to resist after the seriousness of the award season. Plus, one of my favourite and a very redeeming final scene, where the United States is a VERY visible and apparent bad guy in a world cluttered by bad guys and dirty nations, London Has Fallen fulfills its purpose as a descending genre film. Oh, and did we mention, Morgan Freeman is in it?
Just make sure you keep an eye out for the third instalment, given President’s Asher’s two terms served and his role in both films, I can’t wait to see the third film in the franchise to feature the new President, Donald Trump, and see who the terrorists are going to be in the next film. My bet is the baddies are the American population and the rest of the world. NOW THAT’S entertainment!
Night Film Reviews: 5.5 Stars Out of 10 Stars.
What did you think of London Has Fallen? Worthy action film or down-right crazy American propaganda? How’s Butler? How’s Eckhart? Did anyone else wonder why Freeman is in this? Leave your political thoughts below.