London Has Fallen; A Strange Review For A Strange Film

It is never a good sign when the chaos of an action film evolves into sheer silliness. Sadly London Has Fallen ‘falls’ into this category.

Directed by Babak Najafi, ‘London has Fallen’ is the sequel to Antoine Fuqua’sOlympus Has Fallen.’ When the prime minister of England dies, American President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and numerous other world leaders travel to London to attend the funeral. Accompanying the president is Asher’s friend, bodyguard and killing machine Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). Shortly after their arrival, terrorists wage a ‘surprise’ attack murdering all of the world’s leaders in attendance, save the president and his man Gerard.
Why this film fails is because it has been mislabelled as an action film when it would clearly have been better off marketed as a comedy, albeit a very, very dark one. Now I was not laughing in barrels mind you but the many plot holes and frequent dramatic close ups had me tittering. LHF is as strange as it is brutal because once the mayhem begins it never really slows down.
It’s common in action films to feel a sense of invincibility among the protagonists but LHF really takes it up a notch. One scene in particular really got to me though. When the president’s helicopter is shot down by a fully-fledged missile, normal people would be dead from such an experience while the lucky ones would be severely injured. This film teaches us to never underestimate the power of plot invincibility. Something as feeble as a helicopter crash is nothing for our man Gerard; he just shrugs it off like a real man and keeps on going. LHF is littered with these impossible survival moments and we can only take so many of them. I mean the antagonist survives a drone strike without so much as a burn mark, ‘come on!’

The film has a lazy way of introducing most of its characters, doing an intense close-up followed by a caption of the character’s name and occupation in the corner of the screen. I am sure LHF is not the first film out there to take this approach but I do not understand how filmmakers expect audiences to remember characters this way. ‘Show not tell’ is one of the rules of good writing. This film has a huge cast of characters and I found myself forgetting the names of most of them not long after their names were splattered on the screen. That did not matter though because they either died or gave little to nothing to the story.

LHF has a good leading cast in Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman, the latter reprising his role as Vice President Alan Trumbull. Sadly their performances left much to be desired considering their notoriety. Yet I blame the majority of their faults on the fact that they are sustained by a supporting cast that is really bland and forgettable. I got the feeling that Eckhart, Butler and Freeman simply made the best of a bad situation, having been forced to carry the weight of such a huge film on their shoulders. One thing I did like however, was the strong bond of friendship conveyed between Banning and Asher, one of the films few successes. I thought it was quite neat seeing the President save his bodyguard’s life, though I admit I sort of expected such an event to happen.
Then there is Morgan Freeman, someone really dropped the ball here and it certainly was not him. Freeman is a great actor yet LHF squashed almost all the potential he had to offer. He spends almost the entire film cooped up inside a boardroom of the Whitehouse negotiating with the terrorists. All the while he is supported by important Whitehouse bigwigs who serve no purpose more than decoration. He supports the President from the sidelines during the ordeal but I wish he could have had a more active role in the story. I mean the film is called London Has Fallen and he does not even go there.

LHF leaves little room for symbolism and deeper meaning, I doubt many high school students will ever reference it in their English exams, but the symbols are there. Seeing a white rose splattered with the German Chancellor’s blood, I will not go into the meaning of such a symbol (that is not why we’re here). Good films, like good books, always have an added layer of meaning behind their madness. There are so many gunfights and explosions that the characters have little time to actually undergo any kind of development. It makes it difficult to interpret the film for more than what we actually see on the screen.

The weird implantation of the subplots is also quite laughable. There are quite a few of them but there is one in particular I wish to focus on, though it does address a small spoiler. At the beginning of the film, Banning is working on a resignation, (I guess he had really terrible time in the first film) but receives the call to action before he can complete it. This neat subplot is neatly tied up in the very last scene where Banning deletes the letter. Goodbye ‘less than 100 word resignation’, we won’t be seeing you again. What makes the decision even more ludicrous is that Trumbull is giving a speech on change on the TV in the background, saying how things will never ‘change’ if you don’t take action (symbolism). So I guess that leaves the book still open for a third chapter. That begs the question, what global power is going to fall next?