Angel Has Fallen review
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is good at his job. He’s a dedicated worker with impeccable work ethic. Not only does he protect the life of his boss, the President of the United States (Olympus Has Fallen), but he also protects the lives of countless other government officials (London Has Fallen). Just as he’s beginning to think about the later part of his career, he gets framed for a failed attempt at assassinating the President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). Don’t fret, though, Banning is an expert at what he does and he won’t rest until the true villain is caught.
For Angel Has Fallen, the third in the series of Fallen films, the one leading the charge is Ric Roman Waugh, directing the script written by himself and Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook. The change at the helm doesn’t affect the action, which is just as entertaining as before, but there is a return to beauty that was set up with Olympus and Fuqua. From the opening sequence to the very end, there is a beauty behind each action setup. It’s not just about a badass saving the world, there is thought behind his badass response.
This isn’t to say that Angel Has Fallen is an artist film that deserves film school level analysis, but it’s also not a blow-them-up kind of movie with lackluster entertainment. It’s in that sweet middle spot of both artistry and distraction. The story is predictable, never keeping you in anticipation at who the villain is, but the cinematography is quite beautiful. There is intention behind the visuals on screen, it’s more about what’s being shot at or blown up. It showcases what and who is at the heart of the story.
The opening sequence is a perfect example. The film opens with Banning clearing a residence while combatting with assailants as he moves from room to room. It’s not your typical action flare with oversaturated color tones of yellows and red, but instead the camera lingers on the important things like the defensive tactics needed to survive. It may have taken us three films, but Angle Has Fallen has allowed the viewers behind the curtain of the inner working of Banning. That’s why, even with a familiar story you find yourself invested. We care about what Banning is going through, and we are rooting for him to get his just reward.
It’s not just Banning, though, as we find ourselves caring about a lot of the characters. This is one of the rare times where the importance of who has perished is front and center That honor is usually reserved for specific military movies (which are rightly deserved), but I appreciated the fact that Angel Has Fallen took the time to honor the servicemen who lost their lives in the chaos of framing Banning. This might seem like it’s a miniscule point to be making in a review, but for a military brat it was something that I noticed. There are too many films that casually execute background characters/actors, and most of the time we don’t even witness their actual demise. In the inciting incident of the film, the assassinated were noticed. Not only did it heighten the fallout from the action, but it also was important to the overall story. We care about what’s happening and why. Our full focus is on Banning not because he’s the lead, but because on what he’s retaliating against. We despise the villain, and we are behind anyone fighting against that. It also helps that Danny Huston is a pretty darn good villain.
The other thing that stood out to me in this film, which was a nice little surprise for my misguided expectations, was the conduction of the stunts. In order for us to feel connected to the supporting characters, the Secret Service men, we had to be intimate at their end. The way we were able to do that was because of Greg Powell and his stunt team. The viewers are able to witness just how talented and athletic these crew members are. They are flying through the air in front of balls of fire, they are blasted into the walls behind them because of the “impact” from gunshots. We are witness to the loss of life for these patriots. That is able to happen because the stunt actors are doing their job. These are the people who make action films entertaining, they are the action stars.
We live in a post John Wick world where stunts can be put on the forefront. Audiences don’t have to be fooled about who exactly is flying through the air, it doesn’t ruin the film knowing that Jonny James, Butler’s stunt double, is the one actually being thrown down the stairs. That doesn’t take anything away from Butler’s dedicated perforance. It is because of this that stunt teams need to be recognized. Its time action fans Stand Up For Stunts and advocate for the stunt community to be represented at awards shows.
Above all, though, this film is a standout in the series. The action was intentional, the story was well rounded, and the energy was engaging. All of these add up to a fun film with a purpose. It’s movies like these that showcase how action films can, and do, have heart. Butler is a good action star, and with a supporting case like Huston and Nick Nolte, this film is worth a theater viewing.
Angel Has Fallen is currently in theaters.
Written by Lisa M Mejia
Images provided by Lionsgate