Directed By Ric Roman Waugh
Starring – Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Piper Perabo
The Plot – After the events in the previous film, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) finds himself framed for an assassination attempt on the President (Freeman). Pursued by his own agency and the FBI, Banning races to clear his name and uncover the real terrorist threat which has set its sights on Air Force One.
Rated R for violence and adult language throughout.
– Grounded realism. Perhaps the biggest aspect that sets itself apart in this film as opposed to its predecessors is the overall lack of ridiculousness that keeps audiences remaining gripped into the developments of the story. That’s not to say that leaps of faith don’t happen in the movie, it’s just that these are minimal in execution when compared to the gaps that was “London Has Fallen”. This not only gives the film a much more needed reserved quality to its action sequences, but also keeps heartbeat of the film firmly planted on its story, which takes us through many dynamics and backstories within Mike’s past.
– Vulnerability. The strongest consistency in terms of continuity for the trilogy comes in the form of wear and tear on Mike that resonates the traumatic and physical exertion that comes at the toll of some lengthy battles. Throughout the film, Mike deals with headaches, fainting, and even psychological anxiety that shapes him in a pleasurable human shape, unlike the previous movies have. For the first time ever, he feels human and very capable of defeat, wiping away the godlike armor of invincibility that takes away much of the urgency associated with his conflicts. It reminds me a lot of Rocky Balboa’s pain catching up with him in “Rocky V”, albeit without the immersing look inside of his psyche that replicates shoot-outs from the previous films, and helps us convey a life in the secret service better than most films articulate.
– Resilient performances. Even if the script fails it due to certain devices which I will get to later, the work of this gifted cast cements professionalism behind every turn. This begins and ends with Butler, who has made a career out of being the brutish badass who we can depend on. Gerard’s Mike feels more fleshed out than ever before, thanks in part to the vulnerability that I previously mentioned, but also because of the heart that Butler deposits in mending a relationship with the father who left him behind as a child. It forces him to reach deeper for a change, and actually proves that he has the dramatic chops to finally take his career one step further. Also reputable in this third chapter is Danny Huston as a longtime friend of Mike’s, Jada Pinkett-Smith as a no-nonsense FBI agent, and especially Nick Nolte as Mike’s estranged father. All of these character’s keep the franchise fresh while revealing more about the central protagonist, revealing fresh exposition even in this late into the game of this franchise.
– Vibrating action. While nothing is dazzling visually from a spectacle standpoint from this director, the competent manner in which he shoots and juggles sound kept me constantly glued to the screen. For camera technique, there isn’t an abundance of choppy editing, nor shaking camera effects, but rather a documentation from many different angles that allows the object in focus to move simultaneously with each passing cut. In addition to this, the sound mixing here is exceptional, whizzing by us with a barrage of bullets and blasts to immerse us seamlessly into the heat of the environment. If the action isn’t done well, this film is a failure from the get-go, but three different directors on three different films have helped to make this series a notable contender in the ever-growing field of big name blockbuster series that have helped reignite the action genre. This one is the perfect closure to a summer movie season that rattled us with fierce presentational aspects to make our popcorn pop.
– My favorite scenes. For my money, the brief time that we get to experience father and son reuniting is easily the highlight of the movie for me. This is not only because the scenes are entertaining and compassionate, but also because tonally they are the only ones that know what kind of movie they are in. This is mostly because they are among the only scenes in the movie that incorporates comedic value to the dynamic of the scene, but in addition to that, the conventional plot taking place around them pauses for this moment of clarity that enhances the stakes of the situation. In my opinion, I could’ve used more time donated to this area of the screenplay, but as it stands this interaction got me through the second half of the movie, when it felt like the pacing was starting to give in to the predictability of what was inevitably to come.
– Uninspired computer generation. Yikes!! Where to begin? The combination of unrealized green-screen backdrops and special effects stand out like a sore thumb in a movie with such dismal cinematography. For most of the scenes outside during the daytime, nothing but the actor in focus feels real, giving the production an amateur feel of mastering that stands as a repeated distraction to what’s taking place. The driving sequences are even worse, settling for 50’s style film effects replicating passing landscapes behind the actors, which rival only that of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for believability. Oddly enough, the C.G in the film reminds me a lot of another Butler film, in 2017’s horrendously awful “Geostorm”, probably the last movie that you want to be compared to in…..well…..any category.
– Tonal evolution. Another aspect of the script that makes this one stand out is its tuning of seriousness which didn’t exist in the previous two movies. There was always a sense of ridiculousness that make it delightfully self-aware, but “Angel Has Fallen” is aiming for an entirely different kind of beast, and it’s one whose grown-up demeanor keep it from experiencing the fun that is most commonly experienced with action thrillers. One could argue that this is because of the delicate nature of what Mike is dealing with, or how the immensity of the conspiracy, but the stakes themselves felt bigger in each of the two films, and I for one could’ve enjoyed Mike feeling more in control here, while showing off a bit of cockiness that could’ve translated well to the personality in the atmosphere.
– Plot device. This is a big one because it completely wipes away any level of urgency that the movie develops for itself. This isn’t a spoiler because it’s featured vibrantly in the trailers, but Mike is framed for an attack on the president by a cryptic group. The group needs him to be the patsy for the attack, but the problem with this is that it keeps them from ever killing him, outlining every conflict scene with an element of predictability that keeps it hanging in the air. It’s made even sadder when the leader of said group tells the men coming after Mike to lay off of him because they need him to take the blame for everything, and it will look more suspicious if he comes up dead to the rest of the world. So we know our hero is safe, cool, so why are we watching this again?
– Forced social commentary. This one almost took it down two points, but I’ll be nice. This is another movie that tries to tie its world to ours by giving us reminders of the world we live in. There are many problems with this, but two that come to mind is people going to the movies to escape their lives, and two, the use of it in this story doesn’t exactly make sense. Let me explain. The first instance of this use comes when a character mentions that the Russians hacked into our election. Who did they help? Morgan Freeman? Does this make him a less honorable president? The second instance is a familiar slogan with a twist, in “Make America tough again”. This line is every bit as macho as a Barbie playhouse, and even worse molds two worlds together that couldn’t be any further apart in comparison if five-eyed aliens made up the population on screen.
– Antagonist twist. There’s a late second act reveal, if you can call it that, for who is controlling this whole mission, and it’s as predictable as you would expect for a script with only two possibilities. When one of those possibilities already joins the group early in the second act, we know who it is, and have to wait another forty minutes before our thoughts materialize. The worst part is the movie tries so hard to be clever with this character reveal, but if you’re paying attention to their demeanor and reactions to everything transpiring, you will already sense that something isn’t stirring the Kool-Aid properly. This turn reeks of 80’s political action thriller, but instead of making the group stronger, it makes them look less intimidating once you see behind the curtain who pulls all of the strings.
My Grade: 5/10 or D+