London Has Fallen is not only a sequel to the 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen, it may be the true start of a new sub-genre of film: the anti-terrorism revenge fantasy. After real-life events like the recent Paris attacks in November, where the world watched in horror as the attacks were carried out in the City of Lights, many people had that feeling of helplessness and anger and fear that manifested itself after every new bit of information or video was released. And it was not a good feeling.
A film like London Has Fallen — and its predecessor — both take wide scale terrorism and amp it up — way up, even more than TV’s 24 ever did. And then they let Gerard Butler exact that level of strike-back revenge that many wanted last November — and many other times since September 11, 2001, and it does so with such ease that these “…Has Fallen” films are almost a type of porn. Good porn.
London Has Fallen is the direct follow up to Olympus Has Fallen. Gerard Butler returns as Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent who single-handedly saved the life of President Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart) when Korean terrorists attacked the White House three years ago. This time, Banning has a nice family life with his very pregnant wife, Leah (Radha Mitchell), and impending child. This is enough to make Mike want to leave the secret service so he can spend more time at home.
Before Mike can tender his resignation, the British Prime Minister dies suddenly, and the world leaders gather in London for the funeral. It is here that a terrorist named Barkawi, himself seeking revenge for an attack in the past, pulls off an incredible series of well-orchestrated attacks that wipes out all of the world leaders, save for one: our man President Asher, and his man Banning, turning London into a battleground where not even the grandest monument or building is left untouched in the wave of stark violence.
As Banning and Asher try to escape, along with Head of the Secret Service Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett, reprising her role from Olympus), now-Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) watches in horror from the United States. He and the joint chiefs, which include performances by the always-solid Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, who both reprise roles from the first film, and Jackie Earle Haley, do whatever they can to assist MI5 in London, as the terrorists have planned for everything — everything save for Mike Banning.
If Olympus Has Fallen was the best Die Hard film since Die Hard, as I said three years ago, then London Has Fallen is a live action film of the best cut scenes from the Call of Duty game franchise. The over-the-top action and violence, which is grounded in real life, mind you, lends to the video game juggernaut franchise.
In the third act, when Banning goes all-in to save Asher, there is one prolonged scene — and incredible un-interuppted shot — that has Banning and a team of SAS troopers storming the streets of London as they make their way to the terrorists’ location. The shot is wonderfully choreographed and director Babak Najifi, who has very little feature directing credits to his name, introduces the world to his talents here, and the scene created heart-pounding thrills and goosebumps — and satisfaction every time a terrorist was brutally destroyed — not just killed, but destroyed. Point-blank head shots, knives severing jugulars, bombs blowing the terrorists into a fine mist; there was no end to the ways that Banning and company dispatched the bad guys, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed it. All of it. And judging by the cheers of the audience I screened it with, others did too.
London Has Fallen is the second film in what could easily become a franchise, and if so, this is my new favorite franchise, hands down. I had a fear that whatever strange magic that Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, the writers of Olympus, had created could not be replicated in London, and they actually upped the stakes — and the destruction — and along with Babak Nafiji, made a better movie. Banning’s one-liners and Butler’s matter-of-fact delivery are the embodiment of everything a red-blooded American dreams about while they clean their guns and drink their Budweisers. You can’t help but cheer, and secretly hope that the bad guys get theirs in most violent ways before the final credits roll.
In the world we live in, where at any day and any time, terrorists, both foreign and domestic, can strike, movies like London Has Fallen help distract us, and secretly give us that feeling of taking it to the bad guys, and not with waterboarding or prison time, but with an 8-inch blade through the eye socket while their body burns to a crisp. Is it politically correct? Hell no. It it fun and escapist to watch terrorists get paid back for the terror they create? You betcha.
London Has Fallen is rated R and is in theaters nationwide on March 4.
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