Review: Angel Has Fallen

DIR: Ric Roman Waugh • WRI: Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook, Ric Roman Waugh • DOP: Jules O’Loughlin • ED: Gabriel Fleming • DES: Russell De Rozario • PRO: Gerard Butler, Mark Gill, Matt O’Toole, Matthew O’Toole, Alan Siegel, Thompson, Les Weldon • MUS: David Buckley • CAST: Gerard Butler, Frederick Schmidt, Danny Huston, Rocci Williams

When you think of heroes that have led action series, the same names pop into our heads. John McLane, Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, John Rambo and the most obvious character of all Mike Banning. Gerard Butler’s character has saved the president from terrorists in the White House and the streets on London. There’s nothing Mike Banning can’t solve with a headshot and a knife. In a thousand years when film students learn of iconic characters from cinema, Mike Banning’s face will be on the front of their textbooks. On a serious note, who was asking for a third installment into the Fallen series? Is there a dedicated fanbase out there demanding more of these mediocre films? Olympus Has Fallen is a generic action film that tethers a fine line of being racist propaganda. Its sequel, London Has Fallen, has zero subtlety in its decision to jump far and beyond that line. Once you take five minutes to think about the themes of these films it becomes clear that they are offensive to everyone and anyone. The third and possibly the final installment of the series, Angel Has Fallen, has seemingly come from nowhere to close out the Summer season. Don’t worry, the ending of Mike Banning’s story is slightly less mediocre as the beginning and middle installments. 

Angel Has Fallen finds Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) facing his toughest enemy to date: old age. Banning’s turned to pills to try and recover from the physical and emotional trauma that comes with saving the world. Right when he’s about to exit the game the unthinkable happens. Mike is framed for an assassination attempt on the US President (Morgan Freeman taking over from Aaron Eckhart). Can Mike evade the colleagues he worked so hard to save to clear his name? Or is this one mission too far for our hero?

Angel Has Fallen works best in its first two acts. The first act is a surprisingly thoughtful examination of the effects that battle has on a person. Mike’s turmoil of possibly having to retreat to a life behind a desk. It’s the first time in the trilogy that the film is quiet enough to examine its characters. When explosions and gunshots aren’t ringing in the air the characters are genuinely sympathetic. We know nothing about Mike beside the fact that he loves to save the day; when he may no longer be able to do that you can’t help but feel for the guy. Once the story gets into the thick of the action so loud you can’t hear yourself think, the film loses its connection to its leading man.

The second act transforms the film into a remake of The Fugitive with Gerrard Butler instead of Harrison Ford. This sequence of the film is possibly the most compelling of the trilogy. It’s a welcome change of pace seeing Mike as the hunted instead of the hunter. While the action isn’t exactly ground-breaking there are enough stakes involved to keep you interested. The final act of the film loses all momentum as it resorts to copying the previous films’ final acts beat for beat. Had the final minutes of the film dared to showcase originality Angel Has Fallen could have been the first genuinely decent film of the trilogy. 

The career of Gerard Butler is a baffling one. For the better part of a decade, the actor has been starring in films that range from acceptable to abysmal. A quick glance at his filmography will show you films such as The Bounty Hunter, Gods of Egypt and Geostorm; each one of those movies is slightly more painful than the last. Outside of 300, Butler hasn’t had any great live-action films. Yet in 2019 the Scotsman is still leading action romps. It’s a testament to the actor’s likability whenever he’s on-screen. In Angel Has Fallen Butler delivers the same performance that he’s been giving for years. A dodgy one-liner every 5 minutes is the only thing that breaks up the ultra-violent action. After watching three of these films in one week I’ve come to the realisation of what Butler’s niche is. Gerrard Butler is an ’80s actor trapped in the 21st century. Think about the constant stream of action movies Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris starred in during their wonder years. Is there a place for these kinds of films in 2019? Considering there are three films in the Fallen series it clearly has an audience. It’s just disheartening that Butler is limiting himself to these films when you look at the heartfelt performances he gave in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. It appears that Butler is going to stick to his niche for the foreseeable future. Get ready for even more characters identical to Mike Banning. 

Angel Has Fallen features a supporting cast filled with big names. Morgan Freeman returns for his third run out as Allan Trumball; the winner of the trilogy as he’s climbed up to ranks to become President as the films progressed. When Freeman isn’t sleepwalking his way through scenes, he’s literally asleep as he spends most of the running time in a coma. Freeman has gone on record time and time again to declare that he only does these kinds of films for the money. At 82 years old it’s becoming evidently clear that it’s time for the legendary actor to call it a day. Freeman has nothing else to prove to the world, it’s upsetting seeing him in these roles that are beneath him. Tim Blake Nelson doesn’t get anything to do in the film besides making unnecessary digs at the Russians. In one scene, he basically stares at the camera as he claims that the Russians rigged the election. Jada Pinkett Smith and Lance Reddick are both wasted in roles where you won’t remember either of their names or what their point was. The film’s villain, Danny Huston, is identical to Pedro Pascal’s villain in The Equaliser 2 to the point where the film should be flagged for plagiarism. Angel Has Fallen carries a secret weapon in the form of Nick Nolte. The veteran actor gives his all as Mike’s deranged father. Nolte is terrific in every scene he’s in. Following three films of the entire cast not trying it’s startling to see a genuinely great performance. Nolte’s emotional scene left me with a lump in my throat. A lump in my throat in a sequel to London Has Fallen. Film can be strange at times. 

Every single one of these films has been directed by a different person. Ric Roman Waugh takes the wheel for this film following in Antoine Fuqua’s and Babak Najafi’s footsteps. Waugh is a relatively experienced director having directed The Rock in Snitch and the underseen Shot Caller. The director doesn’t add anything fresh in terms of action. You can be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen the fight scenes a million times before. The emotional backbone Waugh implants into the film is commendable. Waugh wrote the film along with Robert Mark Kamen and Matt cook. It’s bizarre that Kamen, who wrote The Karate Kid, is now writing generic action films. With three writers behind the script, you’d expect a film politics that aren’t murky. However, Angel Has Fallen is filled with politics that will surely provoke a reaction with audiences. Considering how fragile America is at this moment of time it feels like the writers are trying to add fuel to the fire. War veterans are treated as if they are responsible for any mental or physical problems they may possess. For a film with an eighty million dollar budget, the PlayStation 2 standard of graphics and constant green screening is unacceptable. One scene towards the end of the film will have you suspending your disbelief at how dodgy the effects are. Anyone who’s ever wondered what Forrest Gump would be like with Morgan Freeman will finally get the answer they’ve yearned for. 

Angel Has Fallen puts an end to perhaps the most unspectacular trilogy of all time. A series that goes from mediocre to atrocious to back to mediocre. While films like Dredd and Mad Max: Fury Road, that changed the landscape of film yet are still waiting for sequels, it’s mind-boggling that films like Angel Has Fallen gets huge budgets. While yes, it is slightly better than what’s come before, it’s not exactly a game changer. The film is still filled to the brim with actors phoning it in, poor CGI and casual racism. It’s the kind of film that you’ll struggle to remember after you exit the cinema. When there are so many filmmakers struggling to get their passion projects off the ground it’s horrendous that studios pump so much money into these lame blockbusters. After six years it’s time to say goodbye to Mike Banning.

Farewell Mike, we hardly knew ye. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

120′ 53″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Angel Has Fallen  is released 23rd August 2019

Angel Has Fallen – Official Website

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