FILM REVIEW – LONDON HAS FALLEN. With Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley, Alon Aboutboul. Written by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt and Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John. Directed by Babak Najafi. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout. 99 minutes.
Three years ago, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) took on a coordinated attack on the White House almost single-handedly in “Olympus Has Fallen.” It was a pulpy, non-stop action film with a good cast, handing Butler a plum role. Deciding it was too good to let go, he’s come back in LONDON HAS FALLEN, this time keeping the President (Aaron Eckhardt) alive as terrorists lay siege to London.
Details will be sparse, as this is all about the action and plot. The President goes to London to attend the funeral of the Prime Minister. It’s a security nightmare as leaders from numerous nations are there for the state funeral. Suddenly, the attack begins and what’s startling is just how coordinated it is, with guns and bombs going off with precision. It’s all been planned by arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) whose daughter’s wedding was disrupted by a drone attack a few years earlier.
Soon it’s Banning and the President on the run through deserted London streets, not sure who can be trusted or where they can go. Back in Washington, the Vice President (Morgan Freeman) and other officials look on helplessly as the death toll mounts. What makes this a bit more interesting is that both the President and Banning are more than stick figures. After the last film, the President is a single father whose son is now a teenager while Banning, who has been thinking of resigning, is about to become a father himself. They have some interesting quiet moments of male bonding in between attacks.
This is a very violent film, well-deserving of its R rating, and some might object to making real life terrorism the subject of on-screen fantasy. To the filmmakers’ credit, they do not attempt to make the movie an attack on a particular nation or group. Barkawi, the arms dealer, may be in Yemen, but he’s the villain because he arms unstable states indiscriminately, profiting from the ensuing carnage.
Butler, who was the villain in last week’s “Gods Of Egypt,” seems equally comfortable as the hero, playing Banning as a committed professional who’ll worry about the details when they’re not under fire. Eckhardt has done more serious work elsewhere, but he brings sufficient gravitas to the role of the President. The film clearly sets up early on that he has the physical stamina to play a bit of the action hero himself.
At film’s end, the only mystery about “London Has Fallen” is whether anyone will want to invite this particular President to their country for a future film. It’s not clear where they could take it next.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.