London Has Fallen (2016) Movie Review

All the London Bridges Falling Down

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A lot of 90s action films had terrible sequels made after the success of the original film.  “Under Siege 2” and “Speed 2: Cruise Control” are ones that come to mind.  For a while, before the movie started, I had feared that “London has Fallen” (the sequel to the 90s throwback “Olympus Has Fallen”) would face a very similar trend and fate.  “London Has Fallen” though gladly doesn’t fall that badly into mediocrity however it’s not as good as the first film.  While it does improve on certain aspects of the original and has some memorable action sequences the movie’s short running time and lack of development with its main villain are the main issues with this otherwise only sometimes entertaining film.

“London Has Fallen” follows Mike Banning once again protecting the President of the United States.  Mike is considering leaving the service to focus more on his family but he is quickly thrust into action with the death of the Prime Minister of England.  All the major world leaders gather in London for the funeral.  No one anticipates that this is all a ploy for a major terrorist attack where they plan on whipping out the leaders of the world.  Quickly cut off from everyone else and on the run, Mike and the President have to fight their way through the streets of London to stop the threat and get to safety.

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The first thing I have to talk about is the movie’s politics.  A lot of people have been calling this movie xenophobic and that it’s overly patriotic.  But, I have to ask did we all see the same movie?  While yes there is politics in this movie (considering this is a political action thriller) but this is truly a mindless romp.    I don’t think anyone set out to make “London Has Fallen” with a political message.  It may have timely aesthetics in the story (like drone strikes and live executions) but this isn’t any more political than an “Air Force One”.

The most perplexing part of this movie though is its lack of call backs to the original. I don’t mean copying certain moments, I mean none of the characters ever mention it.  Considering the events of this movie is happening to the same secret service agent and the same President don’t you think someone might at the very least asked, “anyone else getting some Déjà Vu here?”  If you haven’t seen the first movie, no worries this movie doesn’t even remember the last.  So, you are good to go and skip the first one.

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Okay, now that that’s out of the way let’s move on.  “London Has Fallen” does follow a lot of the same action beats as the original.  The buildup, the terrorist attack, the hostages, the final showdown it’s a pretty standard and generic adventure in that way.  It doesn’t score any originality points but it does break away from the “Die Hard” formula  a bit by taking the action to more than one location (okay so maybe the sequels to “Die Hard” did that too, so maybe not that far from the formula).  By doing this the movie feels like it’s always on the move.

Missing from this film though is the talent of Antoine Fuqua.  Fuqua really did give “Olympus” an intense and violent direction that was both thrilling to watch and also sucked you in at a visceral level.  His presence is missed a bit here.   While this movie is still violent, the violence itself sometimes doesn’t carry the same impact.  Director Babak Najafi does serve a decent replacement for Fuqua.  Though he isn’t able to capture the same tone as the original but he does provide some richly thrilling action.  The initial terrorist attack is a memorable moment and the final assault is also very well done.  Some Najafi’s editing choices make for continuity issues and also makes the action a bit incoherent to watch.  For the most though part the action works but Fuqua’s gritty approach is lacking here.

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Gerald Butler once again acts as a great action lead.  It’s hard not to like him as Mike Banning.  He throws off the one liners and works well with his co-stars.  Aaron Eckert makes as a great counter point to Butler and the pair really do come across as friends.  Once again though Eckert is kept playing the damsel in distress and I was hoping to see a bit more from him.  But, Eckert does well with the material given to him .  Morgan Freeman returns as Morgan Freeman.  And so too does a lot of the other cast members, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell,  and Angela Bassett.  It was nice to see Jackie Earl Haley in the movie for his small role.  But what this series really needs is better villains.     The ones here in “London Has Fallen” are even more forgettable than the ones in the previous movie.  This series doesn’t have its Gruber brothers yet or  even a strong antagonist for Banning to fight.  I want to see Banning face more of an equal challenge

The movie’s runtime is the biggest weight on this movie.  It’s too short.  There isn’t much time to space out the story for proper pacing or to build up a confrontation with the main villain.  When the movie is over you don’t feel fulfilled.   There should be more sequences or moments in the movie but there aren’t.  This movie is a full 20 minutes shorter than the first movie and it really does show.  This gives the appearance of less effort  as if they were holding back on the excess that made the first movie fun to watch.

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When I walked out of this movie I felt somewhat entertained.  This could have become the next “Taken 2” (or worse “Taken 3”) but it was thankfully was not that at all.  There were some improvements in this movie (mainly the visual effects which still aren’t great but they are a bit more passable)  and some stand out moments.   But, I feel like the moments work better as moment rather than the whole package.  I really wouldn’t mind a third entry just to see what they could do with a third movie but this one doesn’t work as well as it should.

Final Score

5/10

 

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