Movie Review: London Has Fallen is exactly what you expect it to be
Director: Babak Najafi
Writers: Creighton Rothenberger (screenplay), Katrin Benedikt (screenplay)
Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
Synopsis: In London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders.
London Has Fallen is of course the sequel to 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, which in this film lover’s humble opinion, was an abomination to mankind. Okay, that’s hyperbole but it was my worst film of 2013. The premise was absurd on a level that is insulting to the audience’s intelligence, it offends the US military and to top it all off, it’s anti-Asian comments are overtly racist. Not to mention there are films from 1995 with better visual effects. Did they even try?
Yes, I understand this is a review for London Has Fallen but perspective matters here because while London is also problematic, it’s easier to forgive and have fun with when looking at it through the context of Olympus. Of course, film is always subjective and what one may find less insulting, others may find it more egregious. However, when you look at all the problems London has, Olympus suffered from the exact same problems but had a worst overall premise and Antoine Fuqua’s dry directing made it even harder to engage with, even as dumb fun.
London picks up a few years after the events of Olympus, where the British Prime Minister had just passed away. Attending his funeral would be several of the world’s finest leaders, including President Asher (Aaron Eckhart). This is too great of opportunity for Kamran Barkawi, a terrorist out for vengeance against President Asher, as he executes a raid on London in attempt to make a statement and capture Asher. However, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is back on President detail and will protect him at all cost, which leads to mayhem and Banning doing exactly what you expect him to, given what he showed in Olympus.
Again, let’s talk about perspective. With films like this, there’s always an element of suspending your disbelief and engaging in the world of the film. However, it’s also the job of the filmmaker to make that happen, it’s not always automatic. Olympus failed miserably in that for some audiences, me included. This is where London succeeds. In comparison (which may or may not be fair but I find it a healthy exercise in this case), the raid on London is much easier to believe than the raid on the White House in Olympus, depicting a large scale assault on the city that took several years of planning. As a result, the film lets the viewer surpass step one, engage with the world and it’s characters and makes it possible for dumb fun to be had, as Gerard Butler goes around kicking butt and, well…just that.
Babak Najafi’s direction is mostly that of an amaetur filmmaker but Najafi does take some risks. He embeds trickier camera techniques and attempts to make the world more entertaining, even if it doesn’t always work. Where Fuqua’s direction in Olympus was dry and passionless, at least Najafi tries. I can appreciate that.
That said, the worst of this film is the script. The attempts at adding heart to Butler’s character, comes off as genuine in spots and does work better than the tact on love story in Olympus but overall wasn’t necessary to the story depicted here. More importantly, the film’s patriotic and preachy messages are crass, repulsive and even a bit contrived as we turn toward the film’s climax. I’m not sure what screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt were going for but so much of the dialogue in the third act is confoundingly offensive. The script is already superficial as it is, that to force in racist and myopic dialogue is pretty head-scratching.
Maybe I’m being too hard on these films? They are supposed to just be dumb fun right? Perhaps, but if the film is insulting to the viewers intelligence, racist toward other ethnic groups and too ignorant to care, why should I give it a pass? If it wasn’t for the more believable premise, the moments of fatherhood and Gerard Butler’s performance, this would also be a huge fail. For some audiences that won’t be enough and it’ll come off cold but for others, there is some fun to be had here.