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Movie review 'London Has Fallen': Out of step with reality

Published Mar 5, 2016, 1:07 am IST
Updated Mar 5, 2016, 1:07 am IST
London Has Fallen is a propaganda film.
If Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard for the 21st century, this film is like the boring and pointless sequels that followed.
 If Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard for the 21st century, this film is like the boring and pointless sequels that followed.

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell and Charlotte Riley
Director: Babak Najafi



The sequel to Olympus Has Fallen brings back the characters from that film, president Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), his chief bodyguard, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), vice-president Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and Banning’s wife (Radha Mitchell). The US President and other world leaders visit London for the funeral of the British Prime Minister. It turns out to be a set-up for a major terrorist attack that kills the leaders of France, Italy, Germany and Japan, in addition to destroying several London landmarks. Banning manages to save the President but he is on the run in the streets of London seeking a safe area to find the mastermind Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul).

London Has Fallen is a propaganda film. This was true of good action films like Independence Day and Air Force One as well. London Has Fallen, like other films, embraces a certain viewpoint and conveys it with a level of technical facility and visual dynamism. But it lacks strong performances from heroes and villains that could make the experience entertaining, even for those who disagree with the message of American supremacy.

The heroes are spotless, their actions are justified even when they order a drone strike on the terrorist’s family compound which results in collateral damage. The villain wants revenge but to me his biggest crime is not being a merchant of death. The fact is, he’s a frank bore, bereft of the charisma of Bond villains of yore. The best scene of the film is, in fact, the drone strike. They are science-fiction nightmares come to life. The house is glimpsed from God’s perspective and from there the film cuts to an American workstation several kilometres away where a man who works at the station is ordered to push a button. Next to this very real American power, the film’s fictitious realisation of London’s plunge into chaos is stale bread.

There is no believability to the threat shown in the film. It is depicted as a series of bombings and the ability of the terrorists to conduct such action is merely waved off as a kind of special magic that only movie villains have, albeit for a limited period of time, before the heroes respond with their own magic to survive explosions and dodge gunfire that kills African-American sidekicks.

The simultaneous murder of several world leaders is window dressing. As long as the American President survives, everything is okay because he, unlike the rest of the world, is not expendable. The English secret service and M16 are totally incompetent, naïve and unreliable. Their police state like control of the city is glimpsed but mocked for being easily infiltrated by mercenaries.

Never mind that the UK has never had its political leaders assassinated unlike America which has lost four Presidents in the last to assassinations. Never mind that in the real world a President whose policies trigger two direct terrorist attacks on his person would not be considered successful, popular or electable.

The actors are all wasted, especially Radha Mitchell, Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart who have done better films. Gerard Butler enjoys himself and fits his part well, but he also feels inert and dry rather than charismatic and funny as in his previous films.

If Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard for the 21st century, this film is like the boring and pointless sequels that followed. It has also been outpaced by reality. Incidents such as the Norwegian attack and the recent Paris attacks have made such fantasies redundant and banal.

The writer is programmer, Lightcube Film Society