This movie is the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, a weak film and one I didn't like at all. It was deeply inferior to the very similar White House Down. But London Has Fallen is way better than its predecessor. Mainly because it is set in the city I love — and blasts the crap out of it. ("... the decimation of all of London's major landmarks," as the stilted dialogue puts it.)
Olympus Has Fallen was scripted by the writing team of Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. On this new film they get a "characters created by" acknowledgement and also lead writing credit. Christian Gudegast and Chad St John, who are not a team, get secondary script credit. The movie was directed by Babak Najafi who has worked on the TV show Banshee.
The cast, as before, is led by Gerard Butler as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, Aaron Eckhart as the president and Angela Bassett as the Secret Service director. Morgan Freeman is also knocking around in a dull and inconsequential role as the vice president. Charlotte Riley is excellent in a small part as an MI6 agent.
Mike Banning is a blunt instrument held together by "bourbon and bad choices." The writers have given him an irrelevant love interest and a baby on the way (just for once, not a sure sign the character is slated for impending death). Why bother? The guy's a killing machine.
The film begins, somewhat daringly, with the chief baddie surviving a US drone strike — at his daughter's wedding, where masses of innocent people are killed. This acknowledgement that the good guys aren't entirely good is rather refreshing, although the drone-strike-killing-innocents is one of the biggest clichés of recent times.
Anyway, we're soon in London and blowing hell out of it. I somewhat resented the movie's notion that the British police and security services could be so thoroughly and easily infiltrated by murderous terrorists. Although this does lead to the somewhat surreal and disturbing spectacle of Gerard Butler machine-gunning London cops. (A bigger problem is that the chief mole in the Brit security services is all too obvious, making for a feeble revelation at the end.)
The real bad guys, however, are of course foreigners. From "F*ckhead-istan" as Banning puts it, with his nuanced grasp of geopolitics.
For all the guns on display, Banning prefers a good old fashioned knife. And the movie exhibits a level of sadistic savagery which is reminiscent of Mickey Spillane, and actually in an odd way lends it some distinction.
It has to be said that the gunbattles are brilliantly shot — there's a memorable 360 degree pan — and the London locations are excellently used. So why did I feel so detached, and a little bored? It was the same old problem. I didn't care about the characters. As I sat there, unmoved by the film, I did a little thought experiment. What if it wasn't the president who was about to be executed live on the internet at 8pm, but the president and his cat.
Now, that would have been a story I could get caught up in.
(Image credits: All the posters are from Imp Awards, though none of them feature the Bloody Hell campaign as prominently as I seem to recall the LA ones did.)