Angel Has Fallen sees Gerard Butler return in the third instalment of the Olympus Has Fallen trilogy, reviving the wanna-be ‘die hard’ franchise one last time. Morgan Freeman’s Allan Trumbull steps up from vice president to now president of the United States, as our favourite all-American secret service agent Mike Banning (Butler) attempts to thwart yet another assassination attempt. Set up to take the fall and hunted by FBI Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith), Banning works against all odds to prove his innocence, save the President’s life, and prevent an all-out war between the United States and Russia. Danny Houston also joins the cast as Banning’s old friend Wade Jennings, who’s in desperate need for some cash and obviously not at all evil.
We spend the majority of the film with Butler’s character, and though Aaron Eckhart doesn’t return to reprise his role as President, indicating that some time has passed between this instalment and its predecessor, Banning certainly hasn’t changed. Still the same gruff and stoic hero, but with ailing health caused by his multiple injuries and a possible pill problem. The film barely touches on this brewing addiction and instead is used as proof of his mental instability. Following the same beats and predictable plot points as the previous two films, this comes as no surprise as the film not only knows what it is, but leans into the action genre with car crashes, knife fights, and almost as many explosions as a Michael Bay movie.
It would be hard not to mention the obvious references to the current international political climate, with the film reflecting current tensions between the US and the former Soviet Union—there’s even a comment by the Vice President (Tim Blake Nelson) referring to the Russian election tampering scandal. Angel Has Fallen seems to be more politically motivated in general, addressing surveillance states and war profiteering, while simultaneously saying nothing about them. Still, this new point of view is refreshing, taking a break from the previous two films’ hard core patriotism and settling for a more middle of the road political approach.
Another change is the new focus on family, with Banning and his wife (Piper Perabo) recently welcoming the arrival of their new baby girl Lynne. Their perfect nuclear family becomes threatened by his reputation as public enemy number one and Banning ends up recruiting the help of his hermit father Clay (Nick Nolte) who has long abandoned him and his mother. With Clay suffering from PTSD and paranoia brought on from fighting in Vietnam, the duo are two sides of the same coin, even though they aren’t exactly convincing as father and son.
But no one goes to see a Gerard Butler action flick for the plot—we’re there for the action. Unfortunately, and predictably, much of the intensity from the original film is missing. This chapter swaps tension brought on by tight quarters and close combat fighting shot with handheld camera shots, however, the quick incoherent editing makes it hard to keep track of who is winning in a fight scene. Relying a little too heavily on action movie clichés and obvious villains, the movie borrows many previously used generic action movie elements and fails to stand on its own merit.
Though it pales in comparison to some of Butler’s earlier action flicks, overall, Angel Has Fallen doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is. A fun violence fuelled action flick that lets you switch off your brain for 120 minutes, and ultimately, achieves what it set out to do—continue the legacy of excessive gun fights and cheesy one-liners that was established by the previous films.
Angel Has Fallen is bringing action and adventure to Australian cinemas now!