ANGEL HAS FALLEN

Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ric Roman Waugh

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

Gerard Butler in Angel Has Fallen (2019)

This is the third film featuring Gerard Butler’s gruff, ferocious and seemingly indestructible secret service agent Mike Banning, the loyal and resourceful guardian angel who has protected the US President against deadly terrorist attacks in 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen and 2016’s London Has Fallen.

When this film opens President Alan Trumbull (played by series regular Morgan Freeman, who has obviously been promoted in the absence of Aaron Eckhart) offers Banning the job of director of the Secret Service. Despite the physical toll, the numerous concussions and injuries he has suffered in keeping the President safe, and despite popping pills to keep migraines at bay, Banning prefers to remain active in the field. However his wife Leah (now played by Piper Perabo, replacing Radha Mitchell) would rather him take the office job, especially now that the couple have a baby to raise.

Then Banning accompanies Trumbull on a fishing trip to Virginia. A well co-ordinated drone attcak though leaves 18 secret service agents dead and the President in a coma. Banning himself has been carefully framed as the brains behind the attack. He is forced to become a fugitive while trying to prove his innocence and learn the identity of the real attackers. He has to elude the massed forces chasing him, which include the secret service, the FBI and even Salient, a private military contractor run by Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), a former army friend of his.

The search for the truth leads to Banning reconnecting with his estranged father Clay (a typically gruff Nick Nolte), a grizzled, whiskered, paranoid and cynical former Vietnam veteran who has been living off the grid in the Virginia wilderness for years. Luckily Banning can outshoot, outfight and outwit his pursuers.

Much of what transpires in Angel Has Fallen is fairly familiar stuff, and the script from Robert Mark Kamen (Taken, etc) and Matt Cook (Patriots Day, etc) seems to retread material and ideas from the first two films in the series. However, while it is not particualrly original or ferah, it is never boring. Some aggressive direction from Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch, etc) ramps up the action quotient and keeps things moving at a fast pace. There is a high body count and plenty of testosterone fuelled action, chases, fisticuffs, and pyrotechnics to keep audiences hooked for much of the duration. However, a couple of key action scenes seem to be shot in that hypekinetic style that renders them virtually unwatchable.

Butler seems to be the go-to man for big dumb and brawny action movies these days; he has the right physicality and a strong screen presence, and he does what is required of him. His character though seems to have grown more one-dimensional and cliched as the series has progressed. Freeman brings his usual gravitas and dignity to what is a lesser role here. Huston plays a character who is almost a familiar staple on his resume. Jada Pinkett Smith plays Thompson, a tough as nails FBI agent, and Lance Reddick (from John Wick, etc) plays Banning’s secret service colleague David Gentry, while Tim Blake Nelson makes for a particularly slimy Vice President who is keen to exploit Trumbull’s incapacitation for his own ends.

Angel Has Fallen is certainly over the top and ridiculous, and shows signs that this action franchise has just about exhausted itself.

★★★

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