Movie Review: London Has Fallen Isn't the Action Movie We Need | Arts

Movie Review: London Has Fallen Isn't the Action Movie We Need

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London Has Fallen - PHOTO BY DAVID APPLEBY FOR GRAMERCY PICTURES
  • photo by David Appleby for Gramercy Pictures
  • London Has Fallen
London Has Fallen

Opening Friday


In London Has Fallen, U.S. president Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is back after escaping capture in 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen. To paraphrase the eulogy for another Eckhart character, Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, this isn’t the action movie we need, but it’s the one we deserve. A cavalcade of jingoism and xenophobia varnished in terror porn, it espouses a fanatical worldview fueled by Old Testament-style vengeance. Clumsily directed by Iranian-born Swede Babak Najafi, it makes 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi seem measured by comparison.

Against the advice of his Secret Service director (Angela Bassett), Asher travels to London following the sudden death of the British prime minister, whose funeral is targeted in a preposterously complex coordinated attack that takes out most of the G8 leaders and London landmarks. Only Asher survives, and the POTUS-in-peril’s lone hope again rests with the particular set of skills of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), his top Secret Service agent. Banning, who has a baby on the way and a resignation letter queued in his outbox, admits to being made of “bourbon and poor choices,” a pretty apt account of Butler himself, if you follow the tabloids.

What ensues is something like Escape from Old York or Mad Max: Abbey Road. Banning must shepherd the president to safety while being bombarded from ground, sea, and air by armed Islamic cannon fodder, who have infiltrated a British security apparatus as compromised as Marriott’s reservation system. The terrorist du jour is Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), a Pakistani arms dealer whose family became collateral damage in a U.S. drone strike. But any passing nuance quickly dissipates; Barkawi and his son, Kamran, vow to capture Asher so they can live-stream his execution.

Meanwhile, Banning turns his rescue mission into a sadistic crusade. Charging into a stronghold girded by a hundred gun-wielding terrorists, he growls, “They didn’t bring enough,” forgetting to don his “Make America Great Again” cap. He tells Kamran, “Go back to Fuckhead-istan or wherever it is you’re from." He slowly knifes a baddie in the back, but only after holding a walkie-talkie to his mouth so his brother can hear his screams. “Was that necessary?” Asher asks. “Not really,” Banning deadpans. Cue laugh track?

Just before plunging a shiv into another brown-skinned neck, Banning exults, with a bombast reminiscent of 300, “We’re not just a flag; we’re not just one man. Assholes like you have been trying to kill us for a long time. A thousand years from now, we’ll still be here.” Tack on a homily intoned by Morgan Freeman, no less, warning against American inaction in the face of international terror, and you’ve basically got Trump: The Movie.

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