Everyone knows that Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen was an over-the-top Die Hard rip-off that had more explosions than plot, and only managed to hit 48% on the Rotten Tomatoes, but it did pull in $161,000,000 million in worldwide box office receipts, thus the sequel London Has Fallen was greenlit. Now being helmed by relative newcomer Babak Najafi the producers of this sequel decided that if they’d only had more explosions than in the previous film it would fare better that the original. This was not the case.
The film begins with the G8 (Group of Eight) targeting Pakistani arms dealer and terrorist leader Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul) at his daughter’s wedding with a drone strike. Later we are told the government leaders didn’t know that civilians were in the area but one has to call bullshit on that defense, and since when does the G8 get together decide on which terrorists to blow up? The current G8 has a hard enough time deciding on what to order for lunch during their annual meetings let alone agreeing on which random terrorist to hunt down and kill. Regardless of the stupidity of this Barkawi does survive the attack and he and his sons now want revenge for their dead daughter and sister.
The movie jumps ahead two years where we are re-introduced to our hero Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), Secret Service agent for President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). He’s expecting his first child with wife Leah Banning (Rhada Mitchell), and we get the prerequisite new dad jokes. Banning has decided to retire from Presidential detail so that he can spend more time with his family, and presumably less time being shot at, but before he can print off his resignation letter the Prime Minister of Britain dies. So Banning must put everything on hold so he organize the security detail for the President’s trip to England. He hates the whole idea of this trip, and even Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) is unhappy and asks if the President could possibly skip this event. Asher of course immediately pooh poohs the idea of cancelling the trip, informing Banning and Jacobs that, “It’s a State Funeral. It’s our oldest strongest ally.” Letting slide the fact that Britain is not America’s oldest ally, that would be France, who seriously would even consider floating up the idea of The President skipping the funeral of the Prime Minister of Britain?
Of course it turns out that paranoid Banning was right and the whole funeral was a trap. The Prime Minister had been murder so as to lure forty heads of state into the crosshairs of the terrorist’s revenge plot. The film spends an inordinate amount of screen time showing all the world leaders arriving in London; the United States President by Airforce One, the President of France by boat, while Canada and Japan simply drive in. Then the hammer falls and shit gets real. Turns out that in the intervening two years Barkawi had managed to infiltrate every level of police, government and military personnel in Britain. Checkpoint security guards place car bombs under the State Visitor’s cars, ambulances are loaded with explosives to blow up bridges, and even the Queen’s Guardsmen at Buckingham Palace had been infiltrated as we see them gun down the German Chancellor.
What follows is your standard Right Wing Republican wet dream. Terrorist seize control of the capital of one of the world’s most powerful nations as if that is something that is even remotely possible. Almost every famous landmark in London is destroyed in such explosive glory one almost forgets we’re watching a terrorist attack and not an alien invasion or a meteor menace movie.
But apparently Eckhart is all out of peaches and all he has is a ham, and by that I of course mean Gerard “This is Sparta!” Butler. Mike Banning is not only a Super-Agent that cracks jingoistic one liners at the drop of a hat, but he’s almost completely immune to gunfire. He can stand against hundreds of machine gun toting terrorists and not one bullet will find him.
Banning needs this skill because aside from his incredibly ability to “not die” he is really terrible at his job. When the terrorists attack we are treated to a very nice action sequence of Banning trying to get The President back to Airforce One; motorcycle terrorists and mobs of fake policemen try and stop them, but at no point does he think of just hiding. Banning tells The President that even though the terrorist know that the United States Embassy is the first placed they’d go they still have try for it, because it’s the only option. I’m not sure that’s true. Are they assuming MI6, MI5 or even Scotland Yard wouldn’t let them hang out? How about just popping into one of the many apartments or houses you pass by? Surely not every resident in London is a terrorist and somebody would offer The President of the United States a safe hiding spot until the city is retaken.
London Has Fallen is just a collection of action movie clichés that are trotted out one at a time to fill the movie’s 90 minute running time. I will say this, the film does not fuck around. The plot is completely ludicrous and unbelievable, if one was to give it a second thought, but the film rockets along at such breakneck speeds that it hopes the audience hasn’t the time to question how stupid the whole thing is. The action is well choreographed, and if you like to see wholesale destruction of famous landmarks this could be the film for you, but if you thought Olympus Has Fallen was silly and ridiculous you may want to give this one a miss.
Note: A can’t wait for the sequel when President Eckhart finally steps down and Vice President Morgan Freeman must battle terrorists armed with meteors.