Movies are obviously escapism, but it’s still important that those behind them keep one eye on what’s going on in the real world. That’s particularly important when a film deals with something as vital, and horrific, as terrorism, which is at the very heart of London Has Fallen.
This is a sequel to 2013 flick Olympus Has Fallen, which saw tough Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) protect the US president (Aaron Eckhart) following a terrorist attack on the White House. This time around the action has, unsurprisingly, moved to the UK capital.
When the shock death of the British prime minister results in the world’s leaders congregating in London for his funeral in unprecedented numbers, US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) has no choice but to attend. Banning may be about to become a father, but when duty calls there’s no way he will let that stand in his way and so he dutifully jets off to help keep Asher safe – with Director of the US Secret Service Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) tagging along. Luckily Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) has the reins at home, putting a surprisingly icy turn in as the top politician.
Clearly if everything went swimmingly London Has Fallen wouldn’t be much of a movie, plus the title rather gives away what happens. Adrenaline junkies don’t have to wait long for the first gunshots to ring out – as Asher is paying his respects outside the funeral no less – and from then on we’re treated to car chases, knifings, bombs, blasts and punch ups in record numbers. This is where Butler is in his element, which is perhaps even more obvious thanks to the somewhat lacklustre turn put in by Eckhart.
All of this would be fine if the film was an action romp, which in some ways it is, but there is a displacement between that and much of the storyline. A wise-cracking gun-toting hardman is a fine action hero, but seems out of step when what’s playing out on screen are very real scenes many of us have witnessed on the news. YouTube videos of kidnap victims being subjected to horrific torture, and often death, are becoming increasingly common. It’s hard not to question whether this sort of sequence should be made into popcorn movie fodder, especially with cheesy lines delivered in a slightly dubious accent – sorry Butler – as they’re played out.
Anyone who has visited, lives in, or simply loves London will find many of the terrorism scenes difficult to stomach too. In these increasingly volatile times around the world, it’s hard not to watch some of them with the sinking feeling that this could be what’s in store for the city.
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