Director: Babak Najafi
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo, Charlotte Riley, Morgan Freeman
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence And Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/LondonHasFallenOfficial/
Opening Day: 3 March 2016
Synopsis: After the British Prime Minister has passed away under mysterious circumstances, all leaders of the Western world must attend his funeral. But what starts out as the most protected event on earth, turns into a deadly plot to kill the world's most powerful leaders and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. The President of the United States, his formidable secret service head and an English MI-6 agent who trusts no one are the only people that have any hope of stopping it.
‘London Has Fallen’ is the sequel to the 2013 film ‘Olympus Has Fallen’. Unlike its predecessor, Babak Najafi directs this entry into the ‘Has Fallen’ franchise. The previous film was directed by Antoine Fuqua and was praised for being one of the rare surprises of 2013. ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ was also a box office success. Thus, a sequel was green lit and here it is. However, gone is Fuqua and so is the quality of the first film. It is not only a very unnecessary sequel but also a huge step down from its predecessor.
When attending the British Prime Minister’s funeral in London, what starts out as the most protected event on earth, quickly turns into chaos. The world’s leaders are being assassinated one by one. The President of the United States, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is in danger and only has his unbeatable secret service head and close friend, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) to protect him and get him back home safely. Basically, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ but instead of a white house, it takes place in London.
Taking place 3 years after the events of the first film (but never mentioning the events of the first film, not even once), Mike Banning is now happily married to his wife, Leah (Radha Mitchell) who is expecting their first child. Just like all other generic action film, the subplot of having an unborn child is being used here again to raise the stakes of the danger our main character faces. This is the start of numerous action clichés in the film. Speaking of action clichés, even the beginning of the film was a letdown. It starts with a wedding in Pakistan. The father of this bride is no other than the villain, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul). A drone strike that was aimed on Barkawi killed his daughter but he was fine, and he and his sons vow revenge on every world leader. Such revenge motivation for a villain has been used over and over again. And this brings me to the biggest problem of the film, its script.
The writing of this film has already fallen into cliché territory as evident in these plot points. Although the concept of ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ was unoriginal, the script did bring certain refreshing ideas to the industry and there were plot points that were unique. Alas, despite having the same writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt return and having two other writers joining, the script did not match the standards of the original. There is absolutely nothing other movies have not done before. Clichés ranging from Deus Ex Machina to America is the only one who can save the day to managing to survive an explosion in the last second are all present in this film. The dialogue in ‘London Has Fallen’ is also filled with mindless action one-liners from every character. Such cringe worthy dialogue from Banning or the President removes every tension or stake from the scene.
One of the biggest complains that ‘Olympus’ receives is that it took it self too seriously, this does not give ‘London’ any reason to insert joke after joke after joke in their dialogue and go the ‘White House Down’ route. What is this? A comedy? Every line they put in must be something hilarious but it did not hit audiences, only leaving them thinking, Really? Even Fuqua did not want to return to helm this film due to this script and that is saying something. With all that said, do not watch this film expecting anything smart out of it. It is definitely one of those shut off your mind kind of action movies.
Unfortunately, viewers will not be able to shut off their minds and be entertained by what is happening on screen. This is because the action scenes are too confusing to watch. A few minutes after the President and Banning arrive, the attack in London attacks happens. Unlike the previous film, which has smooth shots of action taking place, this film chooses to show us nothing. Director Najafi choses a style that is cited to have become a pest is most action movies this days- the quick cuts. Not only does this led to what is being shown hard to comprehend, but also it is straining for the eyes, as audiences do not know where to focus. His method of quick cutting led to shots lasting no longer than a few seconds in pivotal moments of action is a quick turn off for viewers. Thrown in a few one liners and you get a messy, sluggish action scene. The only time when there is no quick cuts in the action are when there are wide shots of destructions. However these wide shots of carnage are not better as the CGI is obvious and unconvincing. One can really tell that the budget of the movie was low and wasted. In addition, the hand-to-hand combat scenes were a mess, full of shaky cam, leaving me to believe that the cinematographer was probably listening to LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’ while filming those scenes. Shake that.
These action scenes are plague with the common problems of today’s action scenes but one action scene in particular seemed like a different director directed it. This scene happens about 60 minutes into the film and it was a one take track shot of Gerard Butler killing terrorists. It was unusually well done and breath fresh air into the film. Well, at least it kept me from falling asleep. Another positive about this film that actually is something the first film lacked, color. Taking place in the streets of London gave more color variation to the film as compared to being in dark hallways in ‘Olympus’. But since we are confused by what is on screen, more color is not doing any helping.
The directing in other scenes is not any better. Many shots are focuses on character literally talking to the camera. And this is not any fourth wall break like ‘Deadpool’. This is highly evident in the first appearance of Morgan Freeman’s character. The first shot we have of him was just him walking to the office all while we are looking at his face framed in the center. I know that he is an actor that is well known for portraying God but this sort of worshipping, just takes us out of the movie. Speaking of Morgan Freeman, his character had (or felt like) very little screen time as compared to in ‘Olympus’, leaving him to be underutilized. Speaking of time, at a run time of 99 minutes, 20 minutes shorter than ‘Olympus’, ‘London was surprisingly well paced. But however, we would rather have spent this 99 minutes not getting confused.
The performances in this film ranges from garbage to just phoning it in. Butler was just the all American, will not die, one liner hero. Eckhart and Freeman was certainly not how they were when they were in ‘The Dark Knight’ or even in ‘Olympus’. Lets be honest, everyone was just there for the paycheck.
The reused plot, the cliche dialogue and the bad directing are not enough reasons to discourage you from watching it? Fine, let me add another reason- it is also xenophobic. Not only does it glorify killing of non-Americans, but also makes fun of it. One line which I found to be truly racist, is this line said by Butler, Go back to F***adistan or wherever it is you are from.It is just plain pro-American propoganda.
Despite of all that being said, more movies from this franchise are going to be made. There is still an audience for such kind of films and still will pay money to watch it. Sspeaking of money, Gerard Butler is having a career problem. If this movie bombs finacncially like ‘Gods Of Egypt’, he definitely is failing to chose good scripts. Lets hope this franchise fails too.
‘London Had Fallen’ is a huge step down from ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and loses everything the original did. It could have been a refesher in the action genre but ended up being just another unnecessary sequel. Even one of the tagline states,“Prepare for bloody hell, at least it prepared us for it” and that is a warning viewers should listen to should they still consider to watch this atrocity.
(Even though Antoine Fuqua rejected to return to this blasphemy, Hollywood will still do anything for money)
Review by Celestine Pang