CINEMASCOPE: BUTLER DID IT AGAIN

September 01, 2019

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There are several surprising things about Angel Has Fallen. The first is that Gerard Butler (Mike Banning) still has a career. After blasting to stardom with Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006), he made a series of films so bad that they make Nicolas Cage’s filmography seem like the work of a genius performance artist by comparison. If you’d rather stab yourself in the eye with a blunt butter knife than watch a post-2000 Nic Cage film, then watching Angel Has Fallen may make you wish you had offered yourself in the recently concluded qurbani season.

The second surprising thing is that they made this film at all, and that somehow there’s a Fallen film franchise. Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016) were quite bad but worth a few chuckles. The only chuckle Angel Has Fallen induces is when the film crawls to an end after its overlong 121 minutes, and you’re glad it’s finally over. But it’s more like the sardonic chuckle of an orphan who, after losing his parents, learns that he’ll be able to move in with his uncle.

The third surprising thing is that CGI can be this sloppy in a modern blockbuster film. Some of the explosive action sequences look unfinished. This doesn’t bode well for the production company, Millennium Films, which is working on another action film, Rambo: Last Blood.

The mediocre CGI isn’t the only problem with the action in Angel Has Fallen. Everything about the sequences is dull — from the cinematography to the fight choreography, to the gunfights — it’s all uncreative noise

The mediocre CGI isn’t the only problem with the film’s action. Everything about these sequences is dull. From the cinematography to the fight choreography, to the gunfights — it’s all uncreative noise. You know the action is bad when you’re hoping the hero will die.

The plot is typical ’90s retro action-film nonsense. The film isn’t a homage but a rip-off of The Fugitive (1993), a Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones classic thriller. Whereas The Fugitive had a somewhat nuanced script and won multiple awards, including several from the Academy, the story in Angel Has Fallen lacks subtlety.

It once again features Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. While he’s on a fishing trip with the President of the United States (Morgan Freeman), they are attacked by a squad of small drones. The attack conveniently leaves the President in a coma for much of the film. Clearly, the screenwriters realised that the talented Morgan Freeman was too good for Angel Has Fallen, and decided to put him to sleep.

The plot is typical ’90s retro action-film nonsense. The film isn’t a homage but a rip-off of The Fugitive (1993), a Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones classic thriller. Whereas The Fugitive had a somewhat nuanced script and won multiple awards, including several from the Academy, the story in Angel Has Fallen lacks subtlety.

Of course, FBI Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) uncovers evidence that our hero was the one who planned the attack. Soon, Banning is taken into custody. And just like The Fugitive, he’s being transported when the convoy is attacked. Now, Banning is on the run in a film that borrows more heavily from The Fugitive than certain countries do from the IMF. Soon, Banning gets help from his father Clay Banning (Nick Nolte), who behaves like some random wild man. There’s also a weird subplot about Banning suffering from headaches and insomnia that doesn’t amount to much.

The performances in Angel Has Fallen are equally disappointing. Gerard Butler only seems to have two expressions: angry and angrier. The only actor having a good time is Morgan Freeman, though that’s probably because he had his eyes closed through most of the filming. This franchise fell before it stood up. Hopefully, this is the end.

Rated R for violence and language throughout

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 1st, 2019