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New Release Review - ANGEL HAS FALLEN

angel has fallen review
Mike Banning is framed for an attempt on the life of the President.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Gerard Butler, Piper Perabo, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson

angel has fallen poster


If an action franchise sticks around for long enough, its hero will inevitably find themselves accused of treason and forced to go on the run while attempting to clear their name. It's happened to James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Captain America and even Captain Kirk. Inevitably, it's now happened to Mike Banning, the cauliflower-eared hero of the ...Has Fallen series.

While guarding President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman...who else?), Banning (Gerard Butler) finds the leader of the free world under attack from a squadron of drones. Everyone else is wiped out in a prolonged series of shots of background extras being blown to smithereens, a recurring image that director Ric Roman Waugh appears to be in love with. When Banning wakes up in hospital he finds himself accused of attempting to assassinate the Pres, who now lies in a coma, meaning Freeman gets to spend most of the movie on his back, a privilege he's earned at his age.

angel has fallen review


As you might expect, Banning isn't going to take this lying down and so flees, attempting to bring to justice the real perpetrators while evading the FBI, various local law enforcement, gun-wielding rednecks and of course the real villains, a private army headed by his old army buddy Wade Jennings (Danny Huston).

Not since the '80s has an action franchise been so right wing in its outlook as this one, but in its third instalment its politics take a dramatic shift to the left. Gone are the North Korean and Muslim bogeymen of the first two chapters, replaced here with Jennings' Blackwater-esque private military contractors, who are intent on provoking war with Russia in the odd belief that such a conflict would be fought by soldiers rather than by Presidents pressing buttons in bunkers.

angel has fallen review


There's even an anti-war message throughout, with Banning paying the physical and mental cost of his years of service - his body is on the verge of collapse, and his mind isn't as sharp as it once was, resulting in him chugging a variety of pills to stay afloat. Nick Nolte pops up as Banning's estranged father, now living off the grid in the woods of Virginia, his own body and soul still suffering the effects of a stint in Vietnam. When Nolte is onscreen, Angel Has Fallen almost feels like a real movie, with full-blooded human characters, and often resembles a second-rate knock-off of the father-son dynamic Nolte shared with Tom Hardy in Warrior.

Angel Has Fallen is a lot more palatable, and a lot less mean-spirited and xenophobic than its predecessors (who can forget Banning telling a vaguely brown villain to go back to "Fuckheadistan"?), but as an action movie it's still pants. Waugh's set-pieces are visually incomprehensible, and if you can tell the goodies from the baddies in its blur of smoke and explosions you've got a keener eye than I do. It boasts arguably the most badly rendered car chase ever filmed, with chasing police cars represented merely by flashing red and blue lights vaguely glimpsed through trees. The greenscreen is so obvious and the CG so over-used that you can't help but wonder if it wouldn't have been cheaper to, you know, just actually blow shit up.

angel has fallen review


You have to admire Butler for eking out a successful career for himself in this sort of tosh. He's always been an unlikely action hero, looking more like the sort of bloke who might show up to install cable TV at your house than his more well-manicured Hollywood peers. Time has caught up with him badly here, and his aging Mike Banning might be the craggiest action hero since Walter Matthau's Charley Varrick. When this angel falls, you genuinely worry if he might do permanent damage to his hip.

Angel Has Fallen is in UK/ROI cinemas now.


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