London has Fallen (15)
Running time 1hr 39mins
MAYBE you saw Olympus Has Fallen by accident. It’s the sort of film you’d blunder into the pictures to see if you’d rocked
up with action on your mind but no set idea of what you want to watch. Maybe as a second choice if your timing was off
or your chosen film screening got cancelled owing to failing technology (...it happens).
However you stumbled across it, it turned out it was what it was – an unpretentious, largely mindless, 90s-style cheesy, violent action thriller with an edge; the edge being that terrorists targeting the White House is not so far-fetched. To label the film escapist garbage, therefore – as we might ordinarily with this kind of thing – is problematic.
Interestingly, the film preceded the release of White House Down, a similarly plotted action flick. London Has Fallen is essentially a re-tread of the original but – no spoilers here – the action has transferred to the UK capital. What we have, ladies and gents, is a mini sub-genre. Presumably, we can look forward to the imminent arrival of House of Commons Down in the coming months…
Anyway, if the first was a bit close to home for UK viewers, this follow up forces its way through the front door, raids the fridge, settles in and drops crumbs in the bed.
Gerard Butler returns as Secret Service agent Mike Banning. Reinstated as the President’s (Aaron Eckhart) head of security, having restored his reputation and repaired his buddy-buddy friendship with the US head of state, Banning’s personal life has become increasingly settled. With a baby on the way, Banning is a click away from emailing his resignation – but one last job, accompanying the President to the British Prime Minister’s funeral in London, beckons.
Little do they know that it’s a trap. A terrorist organisation has infiltrated the police and all hell breaks loose ahead of the service. There are explosions across the city and a barrage of gunfire from a heavy artillery of automatic weapons: the civilian body count is immense.
A tense chase across the city ensues, with the gunmen desperate to capture the US president and execute him live on the internet. But they don’t count on Banning…
Butler has made this kind of gung-ho violent actioner his own and though its big, dumb, tawdry personality might be tough to
reconcile with the former would-be solicitor’s otherwise intelligent, measured character, it does lend an air of ‘he-knows-what-he’s-doing’ to proceedings; Butler also produced the film. This helps lift it from senseless rubbish to knowing popcorn movie.
Coming off the back of the real-life, large-scale disaster rehearsal held in the capital recently, London Has Fallen unapologetically plays on our fears and is blatantly a message to prospective terrorists not to mess with the West. Wearing its politics on its sleeve, it would be controversial if more people took it seriously, but many critics have dismissed it as boring nonsense with bad effects, dull action and under-par performances.
It’s certainly not Stanley Kubrick, but it’s not trying to be anything more than it is – and that’s commendable. Don’t knock the beans on toast when that’s exactly what you’ve ordered. Performances from Butler, Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett in particular are meant to come with a sprinkling of cheese. But if there is anyone emerging with a slice more credibility, it’s the standout Charlotte Riley as MI6 agent Jacquelin Marshall who brings a welcome dose of realism and a moral centre to the film.
With the reputable cast rounded out by the likes of Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley and Colin Salmon, Butler must be doing something right.