After putting in plenty of years and two prior movies spent protecting the President, Secret Service member Mike Banning is up for promotion. However, after an assassination attempt on the President via drone strike, Banning takes the blame, and he’ll have to fight to clear his name.
Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh Written by: Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook, and Ric Roman Waugh Starring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte, and Jada Pinkett Smith Rated R for violence and language throughout Release date: August 23, 2019 (USA) Run-time: 2 hours, 1 minute
After putting in plenty of years and two prior movies spent protecting the President, Secret Service member Mike Banning is up for promotion. In Angel Has Fallen, the third installment of the Fallen franchise, Banning has been personally hand-picked by President Allan Trumbull to take over as the new Secret Service Director. Trumbull tells him the good news directly during a getaway fishing trip, but then things quickly turn bad when a drone attack attempts to assassinate the President. Banning is able to successfully save himself and the President, but the attack kills all the rest of the Secret Service members on site and the aftermath leaves Trumbull in a coma. Planted DNA evidence linking Banning to an involvement in the attack leads to his arrest, and with the President unconscious, he has no other witness to clear his name. Banning’s obviously been framed and set-up and will have to escape from authorities to find out who is responsible, and to also protect the President from any further attempts on his life.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, Angel Has Fallen is a film that starts off pretty well, yet I feel that the whole narrative of Banning being so easily framed is pretty hard to believe, especially given that he’s been the hero of two films already. It’s the driving force of the film’s story and yet it seems highly questionable to me that the intelligence committee would be so quick to blame it all on Banning considering his reputable history. Naturally any attack on the President is taken very seriously, but the FBI is extremely quick to condemn the man that just saved his life. I think it’s the weakest part of the story, although story is not an area this film ever really excels at. I would even say that most of its attempts at being smart usually fall flat. Regardless, this is the kind of movie that would be best enjoyed if you didn’t take it too seriously. It’s in many ways a throwback to the macho action movies of yesteryear, and that’s where it makes up for its shortcomings.
As the first film I’ve seen in this series, I admittedly had low expectations for it. If not for my dad wanting to see it, I probably would have skipped it entirely, but in truth it turned out to be better than I had anticipated. It’s also been the number one movie at the box office for two weeks running, so what do I know? I must confess that ever since seeing Den of Thieves last year, I’ve instantly become a huge fan of Gerard Butler, whose filmography I’ve largely overlooked. I love his energy, his over-the-top acting and his tough guy persona. He’s a great fit here in Angel Has Fallen as Banning and is enjoyable to watch, even if at times it can be a little hard to believe that he’s somehow always the smartest guy in the room.
The rest of the cast in the movie is respectful as well. Morgan Freeman is a comfortable choice as President Trumbull, and he truly makes me long for a time when we had a sane and competent President. It’s a rather reserved role for Freeman, as he spends most of the run-time in a coma. Still, he’s a graceful and welcome presence who has at least a couple moments to shine. Jada Pinkett Smith has the unfortunate role of playing the FBI agent who orders Banning’s arrest, and I wish she had a bit more to work with. Nick Nolte plays Banning’s estranged father Clay, a paranoid war veteran living off the grid, and he’s one of the highlights of the film. I enjoyed his character’s relationship with Banning, and he and Butler play off each other well. Danny Huston also gives a worthwhile performance as Banning’s former military companion Wade Jennings.
Despite having the appearance of a run-of-the-mill, rescue-the-President type of action movie, the action is actually for the most part quite admirable. Right from the get-go, it makes an impressive statement with its tense and exciting introductory scene which feels reminiscent of tactical military-style video games. The movie is heavy on explosions, shootouts, and hand-to-hand combat, and its action is generally fun. There’s also an impressive final stand-off that’s surprisingly well-planned and executed. It’s in moments like this where the movie demonstrates its intelligence and expertise. If not for these strong action sequences, I feel the movie as a whole would have suffered tremendously, but it rightfully delivers on what we came to see. Of course, not all of the action is stellar, and there’s a clunker of a car chase thrown into the mix, but overall I was entertained.
One area where the movie could have used some more improvement was with the special effects. They’re sufficient in the sense that they still clearly convey what the movie is trying to show, but a lot of it looks noticeably fake. It’s unfortunate, but I also don’t believe it was ever a major distraction. Another issue with the film is that its run-time feels a little long and there are some subplots that I really couldn’t care less about. It’s your standard government scheming and political conspiracy stuff, complete with all of the twists you would expect, but it isn’t particularly interesting, even if it does explain the purpose of the initial attack on the President.
Overall, I had a better time with Angel Has Fallen than I would have imagined. It’s far from great, but it’s good enough that I’ll probably now check out the two previous Fallen films at some point. The story might leave a lot to be desired, but the action sequences help fill the void. I would recommend it for fans of action movies, or anyone who likes Gerard Butler. It’s not something anyone needs to rush to the theater to see, but if you’re looking for a little action to end your summer with, it should do the trick.
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