London Has Fallen (2016)

Always trust in your budding Americans to kick some terrorist ass.

Years after the assassination attempt made on his life,  U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) are still together, joking around with one another and, generally, seeming like the best of friends. After all, the worst that they ever had to face, came and went, so for now on, they’ll just live out the rest of the presidency in absolute and complete peace. However, that all changes when Asher is called to appear at a funeral for the British Prime Minister, and all hell breaks loose. Major tourist attractions start blowing up, people start dying, and terrorists begin to pop-up left and right. Though they hit a few close calls, Banning and Asher are able to get to safety, and await to see what their next best move is. Even though it’s absolute chaos in London, Banning believes that the best tactic is to get Asher, as well as himself, to the British embassy where they’ll hopefully be safe and tucked away from the terrorists who want to kill them, as well as anyone else that they see fit.

"Look out, ISIS."
“Look out, ISIS.”

People will mistake a movie like London Has Fallen as a “serious one”, and it makes sense. Just like its predecessor, it’s dealing with some very realistic situations, where gore, violence, and death is abound, and not really trying to have a great time with them. Instead, it’s trying to be a very dramatic, emotional, and flag-waving patriotic movie about the triumph and the spirit of the citizens of the United States and how terrorists, no matter what shape, color, or religion they come in, will always fall prey to our power.

Clearly there’s an audience out there for this kind of movie and given today’s political race, it’s almost no surprise that a movie like London Has Fallen, actually exists.

It’s one, where instead of really getting down to the idea of why someone would retaliate to a botched drone strike, or why certain political ideologies, whether violent or not, exist, it’s more concerned with blowing things and people up. Nothing’s wrong with this, as evident this film, as well as Olympus Has Fallen, there can be some fun in watching as terrorists get mowed-down, all in the name of the red, white and blue. And while I’m talking about that movie, it’s actually a lot better than people give it credit for; sure, it’s overly serious in a sort of corny, 80’s movie kind of way, but it’s so unabashedly passionate about what it’s doing, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in all of the grisly action that takes place. And even though it’s been a near three years later, it’s surprising how dated the movie may appear to be, given that there’s clearly a climate out there in today’s society that isn’t about shooting first and asking questions later.

Which is why, with a movie like London Has Fallen, it’s hard not to think about the real life situations and issues countries are currently facing. Whether they be relating to religion, warfare, or just general politics, London Has Fallen takes place in a world that is almost a tad too real to the one we currently live in and it’s why this movie can be a tad hard to get through, what with all of the innocents being mindlessly killed, even if it wants us to all have fun and, most importantly, enjoy ourselves.

After all, this is what going to the movies is all about and that’s why, London Has Fallen, can occasionally be a stirring, if exciting action-thriller.

"Man, why won't anyone let me be President?"
“Man, why won’t anyone let me be President?”

Director Babak Najafi knows that his strong suit isn’t really the drama, or the characters, or the humor of the script, but instead, the action. That’s why, when the going gets going and the action starts up, London Has Fallen can be a pretty fun movie. Its characters may be rote, its one-liners may be cheesy, and its politics may certainly be troubling, but when it pushes all that aside and decides to just let the guns, knives, explosions, and muscles speak for themselves, it’s difficult to be bored. The first movie, in my mind, is still better, but there’s a certain appeal of watching a half-hour action-thriller that does what it needs to do and is over before you know it.

This is what really works in London Has Fallen‘s advantage. Though it features a heavy onslaught of solid actors like Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and, uhh, sure, Gerard Butler, none of them are really doing anything worthy of their talents. Is it a tad disappointing to watch Oscar-nominees and, in some cases, winners, to sit around a desk, in a 4×4 room, look at a screen and talk about what’s going on with the plot, while occasionally trading witty barbs? Yes, but at the same time, London Has Fallen doesn’t focus too much on this aspect to remind us of this fact.

Instead, it just wants to give us plenty of action, excitement, and politics that are as dated as you can possibly get without humming Hulk Hogan’s theme song. This may tick some people off, but for me, I’m fine with it. Just don’t expect me to remember what everybody said or what the point of it all was, because really, I won’t remember.

I’ll just be fine with having seen an alright piece of action-thriller.

Consensus: Over-the-top, incredibly serious, and corny, Lond040on Has Fallen is exactly what you’d expect, given its predecessor, but it’s still fun and exciting enough that it almost doesn’t matter just how troublesome its politics are.

5 / 10

"Hey, agent - just keep giving me these movies. I'm fine with playing the same person, again and again."
“Hey, agent – just keep giving me these movies. I’m fine with playing the same person, again and again.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


  1. Very mature and objective analysis, something which is becoming increasingly rare in mainstream “professional” film criticism. I didn’t realize that both this film and its predecessor were rated R, but given how dedicated these movies seem to be to that old-school, 80’s action style where gruff heroes mow down endless waves of enemies, no questions asked, and throw political correctness out the window — given all that, I may check this movie out. I’ll certainly rent Olympus at the very least. Movies need to be more risque and brash, IMO, especially action movies

  2. Almost unbelievable: a review that accepts London Has Fallen for exactly what it is: the visual equivalent of a Vince Flynn thriller.

    You’re right: LHF is simply a big, daft, according-to-formula computer-enhanced update of the old westerns, in which the good guys are very, very good and the bad guys are very, very bad — and usually insane or criminal or both, since the ordinary person a) doesn’t deal with grief/anger/ frustration by sending assorted passers-by off to have tea with Saint Peter, and b) would have no idea where to hire an army of homicidal henchmen, much less where to acquire a year’s output from an armament factory to equip them, even if they had the money to pay for either. Per formula, some landmarks are demolished, simply because the audience won’t need a four-hour explanation as to what they stand for and thus what the criminal/lunatic is actually trying to rid the world of. (If you’re anti-democracy and everything that goes with it, like those women who presume to have their own opinions, you blow up the White House. If you’re anti-democracy and anti-hereditary aristocracy as well, you blow the Tower, Big Ben, or London Bridge. Etcetera. The idea is to pick a landmark that won’t have the audience reminding each other to Google the place when they get home, the way they would be if the landmark used was Winnipeg’s Golden Boy.) Per formula, the protagonists survive all attempts to send them adventuring in the next dimension; we lose one or more of Team Good Guys for the obligatory tug at our heartstrings; Team Good Guys and Team Villains will all come out with one-liners that remind you that no one will ever beat Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry at that game; the Henchmen will be dispatched, the Villain likewise, and Team Good Guys will go home to start rebuilding the landmarks and live happily ever after. Since LHF follows the formula for an action movie the way Vince Flynn novels follow the formula for a thriller, the only sensible question about it is “How does it measure up as an action movie?”, not “Why is this movie not ‘Fanny and Alexander’?”

    Being a fairly simple-minded person, I’m finding the critics’ collective channeling of Cotton Mather rather odd. I simply cannot imagine any sensible person seeing the trailer for LHF and honestly expecting to leave the theatre knowing the way to Nirvana or determined to reduce their carbon footprint to zero or take up where Mother Teresa left off or spend hours reflecting pensively on the human condition. Action movies are the equivalent of a ride on a roller-coaster: you get on, you spend three minutes going up and down and back and forth, and you get off: if you ever give it a second thought afterward, it’s the same way you remember a cone of cotton candy — a few moments wasted on the purely entertaining.

    I suspect some of the critics are bashing LHF simply because they’ve felt so deliciously righteous bashing ‘Gods of Egypt’ that they just can’t bear to stop. Why GoE? Who knows? It’s just a big, daft, according-to-formula, computer-enhanced update of the old sword-and-sandal outings like ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators’. “The actors should have been black”, many of the critics have solemnly declared — to which a second-generation Canadian of my acquaintance responded “What is it with you white people? Do I look like Whoopi Goldberg to you? It’s a job. What was Gerard Butler supposed to do? Tell them to call Idris Elba? Who isn’t Egyptian, either, by the way.” I quite sensibly said nothing: a) it wasn’t me she was annoyed with, and b) aside from resembling her, I’ve no idea what an ancient Egyptian would have looked like. Nor, quite honestly, would I particularly care: the producers could have hired Idris Elba or Halle Berry, for that matter, and I’d have been fine with it. I expect historical accuracy from movies like Selma, not from genre updates like GoE.

    The critics do have a point about the need for more diverse casting. The problem is that movies are made for profit, and however regrettably, as long as they cost a fortune to make, the people making the decisions are going to go for known quantities, both in plot and in casting. If I was casting a movie that was going to cost millions to produce, I’d opt for Denzel Washington over a relative unknown, no matter how good I thought they were, simply because Mr. Washington is recognized world-wide and undeniably talented: he’d come with a built-in audience. So how do we provide a relative unknown with opportunities to show what they can do? How do we build a market for less mainstream plots or presentation styles? Are we willing to pay more in taxes to provide grants for movie productions that reflect the society we’d like to live in? I can’t speak for Americans, but the Canadians I know could tell you that providing public funds for artistic endeavours is no guarantee that what’s produced will be worthwhile, much less wear well. One thing’s certain: I don’t think we’re going to get very far telling studios that they ought to lose money as a public service. And I don’t think critics will improve matters by telling the public at large that only a parochial imbecile would prefer action movies like LHF to Knight of Cups. (Which had its moments, but the non-linear isn’t my favorite style.)

    I’m sorry — I have gone on. And on.
    Thank you for providing a review that simply deals with a movie for what it is and judges it for what it is, and for not leaping to prove your relevance with a spate of faux outrage because the movie isn’t an exercise in demonstrating the ally bona fides of its makers and actors. Not all movies are The Brothers Karamazov, and they shouldn’t have to be or have to pretend to be. I’m not up for a world in which seeing one movie means you’ve seen them all.

  3. Have to admit, even with how much I ended up HATING this thing, I can see your point about it just being a fun but disposable bit of action fluff. Me personally, much like the first film, it takes itself a little too seriously to make its rather questionable political leanings all that palatable. That, and the film as a whole doesn’t have the redemption punch of the original to soften the blow.

    Still, this is coming from a guy who pretty much let his emotions run wild when it came to discuss the thing. Kind of glad to see someone who can take the high road.

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