After one of many very violent stabbing sessions, someone asks Gerard Butler’s character, “Was that really necessary?” He simply replies, “No.” And that about sums up London Has Fallen. It’s absurd, violent and offensive but no one cares. Instead, the filmmakers embrace those qualities and that brings the film right on the cusp of parody and passable popcorn entertainment.
Since the events of Olympus Has Fallen, Mike Banning (Butler) has been back by President Benjamin Asher’s (Aaron Eckhart) side. However, now that his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) is about to give birth to their first child, he’s considering resigning from the Secret Service. But, before he can even finish drafting his resignation letter, Mike must accompany President Asher to London for a funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Trouble is, little do they know, the funeral is actually being used to orchestrate an unprecedented terrorist attack, targeting London’s most famous landmarks and some of the world’s most powerful leaders, including Asher.
Gerard Butler was made for this role. He sold Mike as Secret Service agent extraordinaire in the first film and this time around, he’s just as indestructible but he’s also more cocky and sassy than ever, qualities that prove essential for the tone and content of the movie. London Has Fallen isn’t about wondering whether or not Mike can save the day, but rather how he’ll go about it and how many enemies he’ll have to mow down along the way. Butler stabs, shoots, punches and runs his way through the entire the film which could and should grow tiresome at a point, but Butler’s clearly having a blast, and his enthusiasm and charm are infectious.
Eckhart, on the other hand, is still as wooden as they come. But fortunately, the movie isn’t really about him. President Asher is merely there to serve Mike’s latest mission and when you assess Eckhart’s work from that standpoint, his performance is serviceable. Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman could have cruised through London as Fallen on autopilot as Director of the Secret Service Lynne Jacobs and Vice President Trumbull, respectively, but similar to Butler, both assume their roles with ease and turn up the charisma to bring far more out of the characters than what was likely there on paper to begin with. However, most of the other United States government officials don’t fare as well. Melissa Leo gets a mere line of dialogue as Ruth McMillan this time around and none of the other characters flanking Trumbull stateside accomplish a single thing throughout the film.
London Has Fallen’s big bad, an arms dealer named Aarmir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), isn’t nearly as threatening as Kang Yeonsak from the first film, and it’s likely because he gets so little facetime. London Has Fallen is much more focused on citywide destruction and the nameless underlings Mike kills than the guy responsible for all the mayhem. However, there is one franchise newcomer that makes an impression and manages to steal a little bit of the spotlight from Butler – Charlotte Riley as MI6 agent Jacquelin Marshall. She barely gets any screen time and doesn’t even wind up in the middle of any crossfire, but Riley rocks a captivating on-screen presence and effortlessly sells the character as a noble and very capable agent, making her easy to get behind even though her mini-arc involves one of the film’s weakest plot points.
But, then again, London Has Fallen isn’t about proper story structure or a compelling narrative. It’s about seeing Butler barrel down the streets of London decimating as many enemies as possible. Similar to Olympus, London is extremely violent. Does excessive stabbing or graphic head-shots serve the story? No, but they do serve the experience. Butler is firing off bullets the entire film so there is a good deal of repetition in terms of the action but the settings, circumstances and quips manage to keep each set piece feeling fresh enough so that the film never loses much momentum. There’s also one especially impressive and extensive one-shot towards the end during which Butler shoots up countless enemies while making a mad dash for a particular location. However, there are also instances when the CGI is mediocre at best, particularly when it comes to big explosions. It’s almost as if someone cobbled together the most familiar and basic digital destruction shots and threw as many possible into London Has Fallen.
If you enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen won’t disappoint, but it’s also impossible to completely let loose and enjoy the ride given the extreme Islamophobia and lack of respect for the state of the world and the very real acts of terrorism that have occurred in recent months. If you’re able to shake that off and take the experience as a pure piece of fiction and nothing more, there’s definitely some fun to be had, but there’s a good chance you’ll walk away feeling uneasy for having taken any pleasure in it at all.