Synopsis – In London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders.
My Take – This film’s predecessor Olympus Has Fallen, a straight-up action-thriller on the lines of Die Hard came as quite a surprise when it released back in 2013. The film was entertaining, traditional, and most of all, unironic action movie, something we were starving for a while, despite the on follow of superhero films. The film had a simple premise. Bad guys have invaded the White House and are trying to blow up the world. A bad-ass Secret Service agent has to stop them. The film did fairly well at the box office, so it’s not surprising that a sequel was green lit. So is it any good? Well yes and no, depending on what you have in mind walking into this. While the 1st worked well as a straight-up action-thriller. While it had some sub-par CG visuals, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Southpaw) had a good hold on the material and managed to put together a tight, slick action movie. This one goes a step further in creating one insane situation after another. The story follows Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who is is still on the security detail for President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). However, Banning and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are about to have their first baby, and Banning is contemplating retirement. Banning’s planned vacation to be with his wife to prepare for the birth of their child is put on the back-burner after the surprising death of England’s prime minister calls President Asher and other world leaders to London for the funeral. The event puts many of the world’s most powerful leaders all in central London.
The film‘s terrorist mastermind comes in the form of Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul). For the past two years, Barkawi has been planning a massive attack to strike back at his enemies in the west. He wants retribution for a US-sanctioned drone strike that hit his daughter’s wedding, leaving her dead. Barkawi and his son Kamran (Waleed Zuaiter) managed to survive. After managing to assassinate the British Prime Minister, the world leaders were drawn to England for the funeral, while Barkawi’s forces stage a massive ambush. Using embedded terrorists disguised as military, police officers and first responders all over the city, many of the world’s leaders are killed. Meanwhile, Banning springs into action to protect President Asher to hopefully get him out of London alive. However, with their evacuation method destroyed and traitors all over the place, Banning has his work cut out for him. Meanwhile, Barkawi delivers his ultimatum to Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). He will only stop the attacks after President Asher is executed live on the internet for the world to see. It’s nearly impossible for a sequel to outdo the original, primarily because the very nature of a follow-up is not to improve upon faults, but rather to capitalize on past successes.The sequel doesn’t subscribe to that theory, however, as it has unexpectedly located and addressed every shortcoming presented in 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen.” It’s as if the filmmakers picked up on all the critiques and areas that underwhelmed, and targeted those points specifically for an overhaul in this proceeding chapter. The result is not a perfect picture – but the amplification in quality and amusement is so significant, it makes this product appear unusually superior to its predecessor. Korean unification fighters have been replaced by Pakistan-based extremists, and the arena for warfare is now London instead of the White House. But, ironically, the subject is still very much about a U.S. president (just finish him already) and his top Secret Service agent, attempting to survive a hostile situation while government personnel and military advisers watch idly from massive monitors. Radha Mitchell is still the inconsiderable wife (now inhabiting a more tolerable bit part as the humanizer for the herculean bodyguard), Angela Bassett is still the leader of the protection detail, and Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, and Morgan Freeman all return as various cabinet members or interchangeable politicians. And, despite a venue shift to the Westminster Cathedral, the inevitable storming of a heavily guarded landmark still features shots of machine gun fire dancing across white pillars, stone steps, and human bodies.
What has changed, spectacularly for the better, is the amount and caliber of the humor. Now that the very serious-minded Antoine Fuqua has been replaced by director Babak Najafi (and a couple of extra writers were brought on board), an appreciable wit is introduced, allowing for snappier one-liners (save for the subtle yet silly “Get to the chopper!”), better threats/insults, and far more gratifying enemy kills. Engaging in Bond or Bourne-like car chases, “Cloverfield” levels of destruction, shootouts in abandoned city streets and subways (like something out of a zombie movie), and video game-styled infiltrations. The film excels in pure action. The choreography is snazzier, the cinematography is more suspenseful, and the bloodshed is better integrated into the mayhem. It’s no masterpiece, but the improvements are so surprisingly noticeable that it’s difficult not to be impressed. It’s an unrelenting bloodbath with innocents and villains dropping like flies every minute. There’s also a few twists that, despite being obvious, are fun to watch unfold. Gerard Butler is akin to classic Schwarzenegger in the eighties, a human buzz saw; mowing down baddies with deft precision and sarcasm. Some of the dialogue in these scenes had me howling with laughter. He kills with knives, bullets, and wit. It’s cheesy as hell, but actually works. Butler has immense presence in the proper element. He looked foolish in the terrible Gods of Egypt, but redeems his bravado with gusto here. If you can stomach Butler’s sadism and atrocious one-liners, many of the film’s action set pieces whiz by with a bang. Aaron Eckhart is a principled president, and Morgan Freeman oozes dignified gravitas to the extent that she should be President really, not Eckhart. Radha Mitchell is hardly there, while Angela Bassett is wasted. On the whole, ‘London Has Fallen’ is an enjoyable brainless action flick which also works as Gerard Butler‘s redemption.
Director – Babak Najafi
Rated – R
Run Time – 99 minutes