Saturday, March 12, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: London Has Fallen

Welcome to Gerard Butler Month at the cineplex! The beefy Scottish actor currently has 2, count 'em two films in theaters at the same time. He's also in Gods Of Egypt, which, believe it or not, I liked a lot more than this movie.

London Has Fallen was written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Chad St. John and Christian Gudegast (wow, it took four people to write this!). It was directed by Babak Najafi. It's a sequel to 2013's Olympus Has Fallen.

Rothenberger and Benedikt previously wrote the original film, as well as The Expendables 3.

Najafi is a prolific director of many Swedish films (despite the fact he was born in Iran).

Antoine Fuqua (director of Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter and The Equalizer) directed the original film, but declined to helm the sequel because he reportedly didn't care for the script. Now that's an endorsement!

Olympus Has Fallen was a moderate hit in 2013, grossing about a $100 million against its modest $70 million budget. In fact it did better than the virtually identical White House Down that premiered a few months later. Although it was more action packed, White House Down was a box office flop that could only manage to gross an $70 million against its whopper of a $150 million budget!

Olympus Has Fallen was a well written action film for the most part, very similar to Die Hard (I can just hear the pitch for the film— "It's Die Hard in the White House!"). It wasn't until the very end that it faltered, when it took an odd, jingoistic turn, as the President gave a laughably over the top "America, F*ck Yeah!" type speech.'

That odd tone is ramped up to eleven and infects the entire movie in London Has Fallen. In fact the film goes from "Pro America" to "Anti Everyone Else," as it wallows in fear-mongering and Islamiphobia. Main character Mike Banning even tells a terrorist to "go back to F*ckheadistan or wherever you're from (!)." I'm surprised he didn't call anyone a "towel head." 

At the end of the film, we see scores of brown skinned terrorists blowed up real good in glorious slow motion by a US drone strike. It's the ultimate fantasy for Americans whose idea of international relations is to "bomb them bastards back to the stone age." Yeee-HAW!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The film opens with a flashback to two years ago, when Pakistani terrorist Aamir Barkawi is throwing an elaborate wedding for his daughter at his private compound. He takes time out from the wedding to chat with two of his sons about killing a mole in his organization. Suddenly a U.S. drone strike destroys the compound, seemingly killing Barkawi and his family.

In the present, President Benjamin Asher (played by Aaron Eckhart) is jogging with his top Secret Service agent Mike Banning (played by Gerard Butler). Mike is seriously thinking of leaving his position, as he and his wife Leah are expecting their first child. In Yemen, we see that Barkawi survived the drone strike, and is plotting revenge against the U.S.

Meanwhile, the British Prime Minister dies, and Asher plans to attend the funeral. Bannon advises against it, as the place will be filled with world leaders, making them all easy targets. Asher insists on going anyway. He, Bannon and Secret Service Director Lynne Jabobs (played by Angela Bassett) travel to London.

The funeral goes smoothly until the Canadian Prime Minster's limo explodes. Barkawi's mercenaries, disguised as London police, begin opening fire on the crowd. The German Chancellor is assassinated, while powerful explosions take out the French President, and the Japanese and Italian Prime Ministers.

Powerful explosions then rock London, destroying many of the city's most famous landmarks, including Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. Bannon grabs Asher and Jacobs and rushes them into an Army Helicopter. They head back to the Air Force One, but on the way their chopper is hit by stinger missiles. The chopper crashes in a field, and Jacobs is killed. Banning and Asher crawl from the wreckage. They hear motorcycles coming, and take off on foot. In Washington, the President's staff, including Vice President Allan Trumball (played by Morgan Freeman) look on in horror at the devastation in London.

Banning and Asher escape into the subway system. Banning tries to contact the White House, but communications are down all over the city. Asher suspects Barkawi is behind the attacks, and orders Banning to kill him if he's captured. Banning reluctantly agrees. Knowing that the U.S. will have London under satellite surveillance, the President looks skyward and sends a visual signal to the White House. Trumball and his staff get the message, and realize Asher is still alive. Trumball orders a Delta Team to London to rescue Asher.

Banning takes Asher to an MI6 safe house. It's run by Jacqueline Marshall, and old acquaintance of Banning's. Marshall's computer is still somehow up and running, and she confirms Barkawi is behind the plot. He poisoned the British Prime Minister, knowing the other world leaders would attend the funeral, and he could wipe them all out with one attack. She receives a message from Trumball telling them help is on the way. Banning says all they have to do now is wait.

The Delta Team arrives, but Banning is suspicious, as they got there much too soon, and aren't sweating. He realizes they're terrorists in disguise. They break into the safe house, and Banning manages to kill them all. Impressive! The two then take one of Marshall's cars and go on a high speed chase through the curiously deserted London streets. Eventually their car's rammed by a truck and Asher is captured.

Asher is then taken to the terrorists' secret base, lead by Barkawi's son Kamran (who I guess also survived the drone strike). Barkawi skypes with Asher, telling him he's to be executed on live TV and all social media. Meanwhile Mike encounters the real Delta Team, and with Marshall's help, they determine the location of the terrorists' hideout.

Kamran activates the video feed, and it's broadcast all over the world, including Times Square. He raises a machete and is just about to decapitate Asher, when Banning miraculously appears and interrupts the execution, shooting all of Kamran's minions. Banning begins punching Kamran, telling him that terrorists don't seem to understand that no matter how many times America is attacked, we'll still be around a thousand years from now. Banning orders the Delta Team leader to detonate the building. He and Asher jump down an elevator shaft as the hideout explodes, which kills Kamran and the other dirty terrorists. The Delta Team picks through the wreckage and finds Banning and Asher shaken but alive.

Trumball then calls Barkawi in Yemen, and tells him to look out his window. He sees another drone heading for him, and is blowed up real good. America!

Banning returns home and enjoys life with Leah and their newborn child. He sits at his computer, staring at his resignation email. Asher appears on TV, saying America will always prevail. Banning deletes the email, setting up the next sequel.

Thoughts:
• I don't have a lot to say about this film, so this'll be pretty short.

• I noticed the poster's tagline is "Prepare For Bloody Hell." Most Americans are under the impression that in Great Britain, "bloody" means "f*cking." It does not. It's more like saying "goddamned."

• The entire cast of the first film returns for the sequel, with one exception. In Olympus Has Fallen, President Asher had a son named Connor, whose encyclopedic knowledge of the hiding places and secret passages in the White House saved his life when the terrorists attacked.

Oddly enough there's no mention of Connor whatsoever in this film. In fact Asher seems to have forgotten his son even exists!

In fact there's little or no mention of any of the events from the first film. Maybe the fact that the franchise changed studios (from Millenium to Gramercy) had something to do with that?

• The main terrorist in the movie is a Pakistani named Barkawi. That sounds an awful lot like al-Zarquari, a real world radical Islamic terrorist. I'm sure that was intentional.

• Extreme Historical Nitpicking Alert! When the British Prime Minister dies, Asher insists on attending the funeral because the UK is "our oldest and strongest ally." Eh, that's not quite true.

America's oldest ally would be France. They sided with us almost immediately after we declared our independence, in a treaty signed in 1778. If you'll recall your history classes, we were kind of at war with England around that time, as we were trying to break free of their tyranny.

The US was at odds with England off and on for much of the 19th Century. It wasn't until WWI that we finally became allies.

• In the first film, Vice President Rodriguez was killed by North Korean terrorists. Allan Trumball (played by Morgan Freeman) was the Speaker Of The House who temporarily became the acting President while Asher was being held hostage.

Here Trumball is now the Vice President. I guess President Asher must have promoted him between movies.

• When the attack on London begins, we see that dozens of British police officers are actually armed terrorists in disguise.

Naturally no explanation is ever given as to how something like this was pulled off. Wouldn't the real policemen notice there were suddenly hundreds of new faces in their ranks?

• Once the attacks on London begin, the police order all citizens to evacuate the streets and stay inside their homes to avoid further casualties.

And boy do they evacuate! When Banning and Asher are running through downtown London, there's not another person in sight! It's as if they're the only two people in the entire city. Convenient!

• The terrorist attacks kill the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan. You'd think such catastrophic losses would throw the free world into chaos, but once they're killed, none of the world leaders are ever mentioned again. Not even in passing! But hey, the U.S. President survived, and that's all that really matters! America!

• After Asher is captured by the terrorists, the Delta Team finally shows up. Banning begins barking orders at the Team leader, telling him if they hurry they can still save the President.

I'm not an expert in how the chain of command works in a situation like this, but I have a feeling the Delta Team wouldn't immediately start taking orders from a Secret Service agent.

• Barkawi's plan is to kill the President on live TV and on social media. He says billions will watch Asher's death over and over on YouTube for years and years to come.

OK, so a lot of people might see the execution on live TV, but there's no way in hell YouTube would ever allow something like that on their site.

• I've got a great idea for a third movie in the Has Fallen franchise. It can cross over with the characters from White House Down

See, London Has Fallen takes place in a universe in which Gerard Butler's a Secret Service agent guarding the president, played by Aaron Eckhart. White House Down takes place in a parallel universe, in which Channing Tatum's a Secret Service agent guarding the President, played by Jamie Foxx.

A terrorist explosion opens a portal between the universes, and the two Presidents are sucked into it and change places. So Gerard Butler has to get Jamie Foxx safely back to his universe, while Channing Tatum has to do the same with Aaron Eckhart. It's box office gold, I tell you!

London Has Fallen takes the action from the White House to the world stage, but in the process it also takes on an ugly, xenophobic tone. I give it a C.

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