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To those who say Hollywood and the media is nothing but a mouthpiece for liberal America, London Has Fallen will serve as the perfect counter argument, being one of the most right-wing action movies in a long time, a balls-to-the-wall action flick where London gets blown up again.
Special Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is about to have a baby with his wife (Radha Mitchell) and planning to resign as the head of the President’s Personal Protection Officer. He is called to duty when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom dies and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), is invited to the funeral. But the funeral is a trap to attack the world’s most important leaders and it is up to Banning to protect the President as London burns while the American state apparatus must find out who committed the act and save jolly old England.
Olympus Has Fallen was a surprise hit back in 2013, a movie praised for its R-hard action and was more successful than the other Die Hard in the White House movie White House Down. But it was also an incredibly dumb and cheesy movie and the sequel continues this thread. Olympus Has Fallen was basically a ludicrous affair with rogue North Koreans taking over the White House, holding most of the U.S. Cabinet hostage and nearly blowing up America with its own nuclear weapons. London Has Fallen has to up the ante by blowing up most of a major city and attacking a number of major world leaders at the same time. The only way a sequel could one-up London Has Fallen is by having Gerard Butler saving the president from an alien abduction.
London Has Fallen goes even further then Olympus Has Fallen by having half the Metropolitan Police turning out to be terrorists, as well as the Queen’s Household Guard, and the terrorists about to hack into the National Grid and all the surveillance cameras in the city. Logic is not the movie’s strong suit.
Some of the fictional politicians were meant to be representations of real life figures. The German Chancellor was a stoic woman, just like Angela Merkel and the Italian Prime Minister was a man with much younger wife, so was a cross between Silvio Berlusconi and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. And the movie looks for overblown ways to kill them. The British Home Secretary was a domineering woman like the real life Home Secretary Theresa May and the new Prime Minister is called Clarkson – which as a Brit, made me think of Jeremy Clarkson.
Swedish director Babak Najafi, in his Hollywood debut, takes over the directing duties from Antoine Fuqua. He is comfortable with the action sequences and London Has Fallen does have some enjoyable ones. The sequences where all the world leaders are attacked is the most fun and impressive – filled with bloody violence and fun kills. One sequence was done as a continuous take and it is clear Najafi was influenced by the hospital action scene in John Woo’s Hard Boiled. He continues the strong tradition of blowing London to bits. However Najafi and the writers were too reliant on catchphrases from other action movies – ‘get to the chopper’ and ‘I’ll be back’ are forgivable, but when Eckhart does his best Agent Smith impression to say ‘that’s the sound of inevitability’ then it leads to thoughts that they are just ripping off their favorite action movies.
Najafi also keeps the cheesy moments from the first movie: Banning having doubts about his impending fatherhood, his talks with his wife and his personal dilemma over resigning. There are also heartfelt moments between the two friends, President Asher and Banning which lighten proceedings during all the death and destruction.
London Has Fallen‘s politics is the most egregious part of movie. An American action movie being overly patriotic and showing America saving the day is nothing new, but London Has Fallen is so over the top in its attempts to show how only America is able to take action – both in the field and in the background and that everyone else is unable to do anything. Banning has turned into a more horrid version of Jack Bauer in this sequel, willing to torture people, not just for information but also for a sadistic pleasure from the act, using it as a form of vengeance. This is a mentality that reflects the worst years of the Bush/Cheney administration. Banning also uses the term ‘Fuckheadistan’ to taunt the terrorists – the type of language used in a World War II propaganda film and it is amazing that it was allowed to be used in a mainstream movie. It’s even weirder because the director is from Iranian heritage.
The head of the terrorist organization in London Has Fallen is a weapons dealer causing terrorist attacks for profit. Yet he also talks about the West, particularly America, butting in the affairs of other nations, acting as a justification for their actions. It would not be surprising if it turned out the villains were originally meant to be al-Qaida like organization but changed to be a more ambiguous force. This is undermined with Morgan Freeman’s final speech about foreign intervention that is so preachy that even people who support this position would think it’s too much. Freeman’s speech is not the only example of grandstand in the movie – the President does a reverse V for Vendetta speech – talking about America and its ideals will never die and stands up to the terrorists by reciting the Presidential oath.
London Has Fallen had a bigger canvass than its predecessor and it does serve up some strong action sequences and destruction porn. But its politics with its eye for an eye mentality, using deliberately un-PC terms and Ann Coulter style viewpoint will drive many audience members away.