FILM REVIEW – ANGEL HAS FALLEN. With Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte. Written by Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook & Ric Roman Waugh. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Rated R for violence and language throughout. 120 minutes.
In “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013) and “London Has Fallen” (2016) Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) had to save the President of the United States from terrorist attacks. Now, in ANGEL HAS FALLEN, Banning and his wife (Piper Perabo) have a young child, and he’s been taking painkillers to deal with all the abuse his body has taken in his work. Near the film’s start, the current U.S. President (Morgan Freeman), tells Banning that he plans to make him director of the Secret Service.
Then the attack begins. As in the previous films it’s massive, audacious, and coordinated. The President ends up in a coma and, as the only other survivor of the attack, Banning becomes the chief suspect. No fair guessing how it turns out. Indeed, even before the big reveals it’s pretty obvious who the film’s real villains will turn out to be.
What the series offers is some top-flight actors fleshing out their melodramatic roles, including Jada Pinkett Smith as a relentless FBI agent, Danny Huston as an old friend of Banning who has set up a counter-terrorism camp, Nick Nolte as a recluse with ties to the agent, and Tim Blake Nelson as the Vice President. Nolte, looking like a bedraggled hermit, seems like he’s having a lot of fun as his character becomes enmeshed in the plot. (Make sure to stick around for the scene with Butler and Nolte in the closing credits.)
What’s really the point of the series is that it provides visceral and violent action, delivering plenty of jolts mixed in with a dash of humor. The body count is high with most of those shot or blown up as anonymous as characters in a video game. We can be fairly certain that Banning will live to fight another day but, be warned, not all of the principals make it to the end of the film.
Stuntman turned writer/director Ric Roman Waugh and his collaborators have constructed the film around several action set pieces, leading to a climactic showdown at the hospital where the weakened but now revived President chooses to trust Banning to protect him. We’ve seen such scenes in other films, but they kick it up a notch with some twists that keep it from being predictable. It does, however, keep with preposterous premise that drove the other films – that Banning alone can take on an entire army almost single-handedly.
Perhaps that explains the series’ success. Butler turns 50 this November so his on-screen derring-do may serve middle-aged wish fulfillment, but it also comes with a touch of realism in that his heroism has a cost on mind and body. “Angel Has Fallen” works as an action film but also as an opportunity for older viewers (like this reviewer) to pretend – at least for its two-hour running time – that “I could do that too.”•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.