London Has Fallen

london-has

2016

Millennium Films/Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures

Directed by Babak Najafi

Produced by Gerard Butler/Mark Gill/Matt O’Toole/Alan Siegel

Screenplay by Christian Gudegast/Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt/Chad St. John

Story by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

Based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

We’re all busy people here so I’m going to cut right to the chase: there is absolutely no reason for you to see LONDON HAS FALLEN.

Let me explain: it’s not that it’s a bad movie. In fact, much like its predecessor;  2013’s“Olympus Has Fallen” it’s a satisfying throwback to 1980s Action Movies. It’s a B-movie with A-list talent and budget. Both “Olympus Has Fallen” and the other White House invasion movie of 2013, “White House Down” turned out to be better “Die Hard” movies than the actual “Die Hard” movie that also came out that same year; “A Good Day To Die Hard.” In addition, LONDON HAS FALLEN manages to also pull off the job of being a pretty good “Die Hard” knock-off. This is why I’m telling you that there’s no reason for you to see it. You’re not going to see a movie that’s wildly innovative in plot, character, visual style or storytelling. LONDON HAS FALLEN does not in any way, shape or form re-invent The Action Movie. It is the filmic equivalent of a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries. Not that that has to be a bad thing. Sometimes all you want is a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries.

But if you did indeed see “Olympus Has Fallen” and enjoyed it as I did then you’ll probably want to check out LONDON HAS FALLEN. And you’ll probably have a good time watching it as I did. I went in with full knowledge of what I was getting and I was satisfied with that.

Top Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are getting ready for the birth of their first child. Mike is seriously contemplating resigning from The Secret Service to devote his time to his family. That decision is put off by the sudden death of the British Prime Minister. The President, along with about fifty other prominent world leaders all travel to London for the state funeral. Mike naturally goes along, with Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) as well.

Turns out that the entire funeral is a massive death trap. Armies of mercenaries attack the world leaders and their protective details as well as bombing various London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The terrorists hack into London’s computer and power network, effectively shutting the city down. London is cast down into utter chaos as civilians are massacred in the streets and the terrorists run riot. It’s up to Mike Banning to get the President (Aaron Eckhart) to safety before the terrorists capture him as they intend to kill the President online while the world watches.

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Sounds like a pretty exciting set-up, don’t it? And it is. The special effects guys have a field day going nuts destroying London’s most beloved landmarks. They do their job of convincing us that London really is being blown to smithereens. Back in Washington D.C. Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) Joint Chiefs Chairman Clegg (Robert Forster) Secretary of Defense McMillan (Melissa Leo) and White House Chief of Staff Mason (Jackie Earle Haley) watch the carnage on jumbo sized 4K monitors and spend most of the the movie wringing their hands in agony and muttering “son of a bitch!” every two minutes. Seriously. They take turns saying it. Except for Melissa Leo, who I honestly believe didn’t have a single line in the movie. She has some terrific reaction shots, though.

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Back in London, Mike makes contact with an old buddy of his, MI6 agent Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall (Charlotte Riley) who hides him and The President in a safehouse until a Delta Team can extract them. However, when a group of terrorists show up, Mike realizes that the danger to The President’s safety and London is even greater than anyone thought as there has to be a mole inside the British government working with the terrorists.

While I’m glad to see Gerard Butler once again back in Action Hero mode, I can’t help but wish that he hadn’t wasted all those years making braindead romantic comedies. He’s equally as good with the obligatory wisecrack after breaking someone’s neck as he is in the quieter scenes he has with Eckhart, Mitchell and Bassett before the mayhem starts. Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster and Melissa Leo are all way too good actors for this material but they’re game to play along and they do. And when you have actors of this quality in a Action Movie they can’t help but give the story an added depth. They’re just hardwired that way.

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The movie is directed competently and effectively by a director I’m not familiar with by the name of Babak Najafi and he really doesn’t go out of his way to put a visual stamp all his own on this movie but he does do something I’ve never seen before in an action movie and it’s really quite remarkable. Remember the long tracking shot in “Goodfellas” where Henry Hill takes his girlfriend through the Copacabana? It lasts about three or four minutes, right? Well, Najafi does something similar here in a scene where Banning and the Delta Team are trying to rescue The President from the terrorist stronghold. It’s a vicious, savage firefight done in one long tracking shot that has to last at least two or three minutes and it’s a really badass piece of work.

So should you see LONDON HAS FALLEN? Didn’t I answer that question at the beginning of this review? Go back and read it again.

Rated R

99 Minutes

 

Watchmen

2009
Warner Bros & Paramount Pictures

Directed by Zack Snyder
Produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin and Deborah Snyder
Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse
Based on the comic book limited series and graphic novel created by Alan Moore (writer) and Dave Gibbons (artist)

If you were reading comic books back in 1986 then you probably read the twelve issue limited series WATCHMEN right from the beginning. You were in on the ground floor of a work of art that has come to be called ‘The Citizen Kane of graphic novels’. Actually that should be ‘The Citizen Kane of comic books’ but I’ve noticed how hard the advertising is stresses that WATCHMEN is based on a ‘graphic novel’. It’s as if Warner Bros. and Paramount are trying to hide the comic book roots of the material. They’ve got no reason to. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, the comic book version of WATCHMEN was far more than men and women in brightly colored spandex beating the piss outta each other. It was a political thriller/satire, a murder mystery, a deconstruction of the superhero concept and an examination of the psychology of those people in the brightly colored spandex. And thankfully, the movie version of WATCHMEN is the same.

Thanks to a really cool credits sequence we’re introduced to an alternate world where superheroes came into prominence during the World War II era. Although costumed crimefighters such as Hooded Justice, Captain Metropolis, Silhouette and Dollar Bill are called superheroes they actually have no real superpowers. They’re ordinary men and women who put on masks, wear costumes and go out to fight crime. It isn’t until the 1950’s that the world gets its first real superbeing: Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup) who, like a lot of DC and Marvel characters gains superpowers due to a scientific accident. Ironically, its Dr. Manhattan’s creation that intensifies the Cold War between The United States and Russia. The Russians are kinda spooked that America has a glowing blue god who can reshape matter and energy at will. Thanks to Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian/Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) the Vietnam War is won in a week. Both Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian go to work for the U.S. government while other costumed heroes are forced into retirement due to legislation outlawing superheroes.

Things heat up rapidly when The Comedian is brutally killed and his murder is investigated by Rorschach/Walter Kovacs (Jackie Earle Haley) a vigilante who ignored the ban on masked heroes. Rorschach believes someone is out to kill all the retired heroes and goes to visit them one by one, hoping to persuade them to join him in his investigation. Silk Spectre/Laurie Jupiter (Malin Akerman) thinks he’s crazy. Dr. Manhattan doesn’t care. Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson) thinks he’s paranoid. And the richest, smartest man in the world, Ozymandias /Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) is too busy trying to create a new energy source to be bothered. But before long events will drive all these former heroes back into their costumes as it soon becomes apparent that the world is on the verge of a nuclear holocaust and they may be the only ones who can prevent it.

For years WATCHMEN has stumped some of the most creative directors working in the industry today. We’re talking about guys like Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky, both of who thought the graphic novel was unfilmable. And then along comes Zack Snyder who does such a terrific job and is so faithful to the source material that you wonder what the fuss was about. All of the characters look as if they stepped right out of the graphic novel and Zack Snyder recreates scenes in such detail it’s scary. And there’s plenty of Easter Eggs all through the movie for those of us who have read our copies of WATCHMEN to death but that won’t prevent those of you who haven’t from enjoying it.

The acting in this movie is top notch. Jackie Earle Haley easily walks off with the honors in this one. Rorschach is an extremely disturbed and dangerous man and Haley plays him that way, with no sugarcoating. I remember first seeing Jackie Earle Haley way back in 1983 in a raunchy comedy called “Losin’ It” which also starred Tom Cruise and Shelly Long but Haley stole that movie from them easily. He’s got great people to work with in this one such as Patrick Wilson. He plays Dan Dreiberg in such a way that you at first have a hard time imagining this overweight, quiet guy was ever a superhero. But once he puts on that Nite Owl costume his transformation is remarkable to see. And Malin Akerman is nothing short of amazing. I just couldn’t take my eyes off her anytime she was on the screen. Her character occupies a unique place in the superhero history of this world and one of the most interesting aspects of this movie is to watch her complex relationships with the other characters.

So should you see WATCHMEN? Absolutely. It’s not just a great superhero movie. It’s a great movie, period. The characterizations and story aren’t just excuses to have golly-gee-whiz special effects and big fight scenes. Even though the movie is complex and there are flashbacks and flash forwards it’s never confusing. And it’s truly a pleasure to watch a director at work who knows how to film action/fight scenes and doesn’t take the lazy way out by resorting to shaky-cam. It’s a movie with intelligence and one sign of its intelligence is that the superheroes don’t fight supervillains. They’re fighting something even more deadly: social conditions and their own moral values. It’s an amazing piece of filmmaking indeed and between this and “300” Zack Snyder has a place in movie history.

163 minutes:
Rated R:  This is most definitely a superhero movie for adults. There’s graphic violence, nudity and language.  Send the kidlets to bed before you watch this one, folks.