Sunday, March 06, 2016

London Has Fallen

Year: 2016
Director: Babak Najafi
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Alon Aboutboul, Charlotte Riley, Angela Bassett

Plot: President Benjamin Asher and his loyal bodyguard/friend Mike Banning travel to London to attend the British Prime Minister's funeral. However things turn ugly when terrorists strike, killing major world leaders and destroying iconic parts of the city, forcing Banning and the president to flee and avoid becoming the next casualty.

Review: Olympus Has Fallen was a solid action movie despite its flaws, but its success allowed the studio to make this sequel, which follows the same beats but sacrifices even more logic than before. More on that later.

London Has fallen takes place three years after Olympus, with Mike Banning still by President Asher's side and Speaker Trumbull now promoted to Vice President. When the British Prime Minister dies, Asher and Banning head to London with many of the other world leaders to attend his funeral, and that's when terrorists strike. Aamir Barkawi, notorious terrorist and arms dealer, who was presumed dead after a drone strike at the beginning of the film, is taking revenge for his daughter's death during that strike. His men kill the other world leaders and target Asher for capture, planning to execute him publicly. Banning has to keep Asher alive while the city reels from the chaos caused by Barkawi.

Relatively new Iranian director Babak Najafi takes over from Antoine Fuqua, and manages to keep the film coherent and moving briskly, with a few good action sequences, the best being the initial attack that wipes out the other world leaders followed by a suspenseful car chase sequence.

The cast however seems disengaged for the most part. Other than Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart returning as Banning and Asher, the rest of the returning cast deliver phoned-in performances. Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell and even Morgan Freeman look like they have no enthusiasm coming back for this sequel. Robert Forster, Melissa Leo and Sean O'Bryan make up the rest of the recurring cast but barely get enough screen time to matter. Jackie Earle Haley is a new addition as White House Chief Of Staff but doesn't get much to do. The only supporting cast member that stands out is Charlotte Riley as MI6 agent Jax, who assists Banning during the film's second half. Alon Aboutboul is decent enough as Barkawi but doesn't seem threatening enough beyond a few scowls.

Another problem is the script, which makes Mike Banning seem like a super agent, much like Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt. Banning is depicted as a one man wrecking crew, especially in the film's climax as he storms the terrorists' stronghold and takes them out video game style. There's also the big plothole as to how the world leaders were killed so easily, putting a big question mark on how poor their security detail really is. For instance, why was the Japanese Prime Minister stuck in traffic on a bridge? Doesn't he have a motorcade? Finally the script makes room for subplots like Banning's wife expecting a child and Asher ordering Banning to kill him if he gets captured to prevent propaganda execution, which has no effect on how the film eventually plays out.

All in all, London Has Fallen is a decent action film, but not as good as its predecessor. (6/10)   

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