Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Writers: Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook and Ric Roman Waugh
Starring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston
After an assassination attempt on the president (Freeman), Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) is wrongfully accused of orchestrating everything. Now, a man who was once considered the president’s guardian angel (that has fallen), must now somehow escape, evade capture and uncover the truth behind the actual threat behind this assassination attempt and the greater global threat that they pose.
If any of us need definitive proof that profit is by far the biggest motivator and the reason most big budget films exist (we admittedly don’t) then surely the Has Fallen franchise is surely it; Olympus has Fallen (review) was generally accepted as a bit rubbish (and not as good as White House Down) and then London has Fallen (review) was accepted as complete and utter rubbish. Yet they made money, and so inevitably we get another chapter that very few actual film viewers wanted of what has now become quite possibly one of the least expected film trilogies of recent times.
Well, for Angel to be worse than London would in some ways be quite impressive considering just how bad that film is, but the good news is that not only is it an improvement on both of its predecessors, but (and this may well be due to having incredibly low expectations) Angel has Fallen is actually an enjoyable action romp, albeit a very forgettable one with plenty of the usual expected flaws and issues.
This time round it does feel that all involved seem to now accept and be fully aware of what they are making, and so decide to embrace the fact that they are making a lowest-common-denominator action B movie (that just happens to have big names and a big budget) and decide to have some fun. Therefore producing a plot, script and characters that are far stronger and more interesting than the previous two instalments. The standard is still very low of course, but when entered with brain switched firmly to ‘off’, Angel has Fallen is passable entertainment.
The plot may be the key to its (very moderate) ‘success’, as this actually produces a bit more depth to Butler’s protagonist, and we cannot help but route for him and have a little bit more emotional investment in the action set pieces. Though it does feel a little a bit like a John Wick style lazy narrative plot device that our protagonist who seemingly has no one to turn to in fact conveniently does have someone from their past that they can turn to for help (and even more conveniently they have been living off the grid for decades), but the fact it is our protagonist’s dad definitely adds an interesting and rewarding new dynamic to the narrative. What makes this even better is that his dad is played by Nick Nolte, whose voice gets deeper with every film he is in these days. The bickering and reconciliation between the estranged father and son also produce a first for the trilogy; actual genuine attempts at humour that work!
Angel has Fallen is certainly not a great film, or indeed barely a good film, but it is a passable film within its context. This is one of the few times a Gerard Butler character is actually likeable, even though his performance is the usual one-note puffed out cheek, shouty performance he usually provides. There is a plot device that he is suffering from PTSD and various physical ailments (such as a bad back), but though this may be an attempt to make us engage with our protagonist as he is having to overcome even more obstacles, he is still sprightly and completely indestructible if the narrative needs him to be, so that doesn’t really work. This is one of the many inevitably clichéd and predictable moments of the plot, but due to the fact that all involved seem to actually embrace these, they are just about forgivable.
The supporting performances vary; poor old Morgan Freeman has had a tough time as a president; first a giant meteor threatening the earth’s destruction, and now an assassination attempt of which his bodyguard is framed for! He just turns up as Morgan Freeman and delivers a few trademark Morgan Freeman speeches, while Nick Nolte and Danny Huston are the main stars of the film; both actors know exactly what kind of film they are in, and so just enjoy themselves, especially Huston, who suitably chews the scenery and hams everything up to the max as the film’s villain. His actual story and reasons for his actions are very basic and unimaginative, but his scenery chewing makes him an enjoyable villain to watch.
As the plot goes from one loud set piece to another it is all very predictable, but perfectly watchable. The final shoot-out is way too long and does start to feel slightly boring, and if the film had trimmed that down and perhaps shaved 20 minutes off the two-hour running time Angel has Fallen would possibly have got to the dizzy heights of a 6/10. However, despite its many, many flaws Angel has Fallen is still surprisingly passable entertainment.
A film that somehow manages to defy the usual rule of sequels; Angel has Fallen is still ultimately completely forgettable tosh, but it is actually an improvement on its predecessors to at least be (just about) enjoyable tosh.