Sunday, 6 March 2016

London Has Fallen (2016) (Review)


In 2013, Olympus fell. Now, three years later for the point of a sequel, London has fallen and left a trail of destruction in its path. Olympus Has Fallen was one of two films that focused around the seizing, fall and subsequent return to glory of the White House in 2013 - the other being White House Down - and thanks to a decently-sized budget and a moderate box office reception and performances, this one came out as the real winner (or at least decent enough so to warrant a continuation and possible franchise). Starring Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, a Secret Service Agent in charge of the Presidential Protection Division and Aaron Eckhart as said President, Benjamin Asher, how does a sequel (that nobody really asked for) shape up in the grand scheme of things in a crowded, and often uninspired, genre marketplace?

Following the sudden death of the British Prime Minster, all world leaders are beckoned for the must-attend state funeral, including President Asher who takes her trusted bodyguard Banning who are initially skeptical of the event. They have every right to be as, as the proceedings descend into absolute carnage with significant loss of life. Banning is required to usher Asher to safety, despite numerous terrorists roaming the streets for him, intent on streaming his execution live for the entire world to see. Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett return for the second time, whilst Charlotte Riley is a new addition for the trip to London.

All the violence and brutality is transported from Olympus to London, with explosion after explosion decimating the British capital as the body continue quickly rises throughout. Although arguably not as bold as its predecessor, the action remains maintained and consistent throughout and feels a little more free and inventive before, although nothing different from what we have come to expect from the genre. The CGI effects have a lot to be desired, but are strong enough to ignore and forget. Virility defines Butler's character who continues to be a non-stop killing machine and it is certainly good to see Eckhart's character do more than be refined to a room, even if none of them truly give standout performances.. This perfectly reflects the tropes of a classic B-movie trope; over-the-top action, a cheesy script and pure destruction.

Generally though, London Has Fallen succumbs to cliches and conventions more often than desired; it is as predictable as it is self-serving, with an American ideology screamed at the audience as more and more non-Americans are eliminated, with a blatant disregard for anyone who does not wear their stars and stripes with pride. It's underlying dose of racism and xenophobia is rather disconcerting and the infiltration of the British public services is far-fetched and incomprehensible - it's almost as if they want to represent anyone or anything un-American as inferior, incompetent and subservient. Oh wait. In fact, one scene in which a number of leaders perish seems like nothing more than an inconvenience to our American counterparts, further emphasising the theme of self-importance the film laughable and so willingly demonstrates.

If you can get past the lack of invention and blatant stereotypes, and manage to suspend all belief for its runtime, London Has Fallen can prove simply entertaining and thrilling in the moment, with the problematic sequel matching the thrill of the original, if not in its conviction or political correctness. It's 'Team America!' ideology is a little harder to swallow, for it is unwaveringly conspicuous. I simply wish that the film took more risks - and the dispatching of one major player early on to get them out of the way, does count - and was more inventive than it is, instead of conforming to general stereotypes and marginalising groups of people anymore than they already are marginalised; and including a 'good muslim' in a relative non-speaking role, again, does not count.

Summary: London Has Fallen succumbs to generic conventions and a blaring American ideological agenda, but if you can suspend disbelief long enough to see the film through, entertainment can be found in an otherwise weak sequel.

Highlight: Charlotte Riley is an excellent addition to the cast and it is intriguing to see London in one of this devastation settings, if uncomfortably and demoralisingly so.

(6/10)