Yikes, if you've seen the previews (and how could you not?), London hasn't just fallen, it's been decimated. "London Has Fallen" is a follow-up to "Olympus Has Fallen", which David and I missed --- it appears, thankfully. This movie is non-stop, high-octane action, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the Secret Service agent assigned to protect the President of the United States, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are expecting their first child. Banning is preparing to resign his post when the world learns that the British Prime Minister has died and Asher must leave immediately for London. Realizing the importance of this trip --- and the potential for danger having all the world leaders together at one time --- Banning sets aside his plan and accompanies Asher and Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) to the funeral.
Two years earlier, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), an arms dealer and terrorist, was attending his daughter's wedding in Pakistan, and a drone strike intended for him and his sons kills her instead. Seriously, one of the problems with the plot is witnessing the explosion on film, and believing that Barkawi and his progeny weren't killed is a stretch. But, I digress ---
So, to create the story, the Barkawi clan has now arranged for the total annihilation of all heads of state, along with destroying most of the iconic landmarks of London, not to mention innocent bystanders. However, their plan to kill POTUS is foiled by Banning who goes above and beyond his call of duty in protecting Asher.
Which brings us to the other major fault in "London Has Fallen". Banning and Asher are chased all over this beautiful city --- in cars, helicopters and even on foot. Many bad guys are dispersed to take out these two and yet they consistently manage to escape. It's thrilling and suspenseful to a point, but ultimately hard to swallow.
And the final rescue involving Banning and a building full of terrorists holding Asher hostage is almost laughable. My favorite moment has one of Barkawi's sons filming Asher's impending execution holding a giant blade to his neck while the entire world watches. But, as always in these situations, instead of getting on with the nasty deed, he continues lecturing Asher giving Banning just enough time to get there and stop him --- one of my all-time pet peeves.
Have we not had enough of this incessant violence? Butler plays Banning as a cocky American cowboy --- rough around the edges --- with stereotypical barbs spewing from him on a regular basis --- a la Donald Trump. It's tiresome at best.
Seeing London in shambles is depressing to say the least, though at the very end, it is shown being rebuilt. But, truthfully, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and other buildings can never be restructured the same, so let's stop giving maniacal murderers these horrific ideas.
Opinion: Wait For DVD
From the opening scenes of "London Has Fallen", when we learn of the British Prime Minister's death due to a heart attack, and his impending funeral, there is an overwhelming sense of dread. Two years earlier, a drone strike by the U.S. killed the daughter of a top-ranking terrorist at her wedding in Pakistan. Aamir Barkari's (Alon Aboutboul) revenge takes the form of an elaborate attack on foreign heads of state attending the funeral, plus the destruction of many of London's storied landmarks.
"London Has Fallen" builds suspense rather well. However, the special effects of bridges and buildings throughout London being blown apart, are disturbing and gut wrenching --- even depressing. Yet you can't take your eyes off what is happening. Vehicles tumbling off a destroyed bridge into the Thames create an horrific scene. Certainly the movie evokes the sickening days of the Twin Towers collapsing.
There are the expected over-the-top shootouts. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his chief bodyguard, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), manage to survive deadly encounters with terrorists with barely a scratch. But considering Banning is an elite killing machine charged with the protection and safety of the most powerful man on Earth, we can suspend belief for 99 minutes. Kudos to Iranian-born director Babak Najafi for keeping things brief.
In films like this, I always have the uneasy feeling that the filmmakers are putting ideas in the minds of the terrorists, although I suspect that, already, ISIS's idea of nirvana is the demolition of western culture. Indeed, Barkawi tells American officials, at one point, that "London is only the beginning...every major city will descend into chaos".
While "London Has Fallen" would undoubtedly be a big hit with these demented radicals, it's inconceivable that the events depicted in the film could be pulled off with any degree of success. On that basis, you can enjoy "London Has Fallen" as essentially a science fiction/action film.
Many of the cast members from "Olympus Has Fallen", the precursor to this movie, reprise their roles here. In addition to Eckhart and Butler, Morgan Freeman returns as Vice President Trumbull, Angela Bassett as Director of the Secret Service, and Rahda Mitchell as Leah Banning, Mike's now-pregnant wife. The scenes of the Cabinet members discussing their strategies are reasonably authentic. The action is sustained throughout, and because we actually care about these people, their safety and survival is important to us.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!