I’d love to dismiss this preposterous action movie as harmless blockbusting film fodder. But it is far more pernicious and nasty than that.
London Has Fallen* opens with a shadowy Muslim having a Godfather-style wedding. This promptly gets blown up by a drone attack ordered by the US military spying on events remotely by satellite.
Two years later, the Muslims have their revenge with the most elaborately-plotted coup ever staged, which involves entrapping world leaders – including of course Aaron Eckhart’s US President – at a state funeral for a suddenly deceased British Prime Minister.
When the centre-piece unravels, there’s shock as Buckingham Palace’s guards break rank to shoot at random, as do the British bobbies and ambulance drivers. Bombs go off around the city. “Most of the known landmarks in the British capital have been decimated,” says a news reader as Morgan Freeman watches back at the White House. Have the Minions been at work?
No, the dastardly Muslims, masterminded by the Bakawi family who survived that drone attack, have infected every part of London, says the film, now with access to the electrics and phone signals. Only one man can save this world gone mad, and it’s Gerard Butler, playing Mike Banning, secret service bodyguard to the President.
He’s a no-nonsense fella, tells it like it is, loves his pregnant wife, says he’s made of “bourbon and bad choices”, and he can kill just about anyone when he’s angry. He’s a bit of a lump, like Liam Neeson in Taken, but this isn’t about protecting his daughter. Mike has the President’s back, and ear, and he’s doing this for America. “Go back to Fuckheadistan, or wherever you’re from,” is his advice to terrorist assailants before he knifes one of them in the eye.
The London landmarks look good being blown up. Chelsea Bridge pings apart, Westminster Abbey nearly topples – the Italian Prime Minister is caught up there with his mistress – St Pauls is a bloodbath and the Tube comes to a stand still.
Colin Salmon is in charge of New Scotland Yard, but someone somewhere is helping these Muslims. There’s a mole. How very British. Let’s play spot the shifty posh boy.
I suspect Donald Trump would like this movie a lot. It is wildly stupid and crassly offensive in that most right wing of Hollywood studio ways – i.e. I’m not sure it knows quite how awful it’s being. The gung-ho right wingness of the 80s blockbusters is definitely back in the mainstream – The Martian, 13 Hours, American Sniper, London Has Fallen exhibit a return to classic American belligerence and bellicosity, films with little interest in building bridges, only in blowing them up, and picturing the brave American as lone survivor, embattled hero and, ultimately, vengeful victor.
Of course London Has Fallen. The Brits are weak and too accepting. They’ve let these treacherous Muslims penetrate every part of their society and institutions. Angela Bassett’s head of security character pleads with the President not to travel to the funeral because she can’t guarantee his safety in foreign parts. The message is isolationist and protectionist. It is dim-witted and spectacular. The London geography is all wrong – the terrorist HQ is tracked down to the corner of Broadwick Street and Lexington Street, which in real life, is a Pret a Manger. I know £5.50 is a lot for a pot of pulled pork and quinoa, but there’s no need to start WW III over it.
But geography isn’t this film’s weakest subject. I’m not even talking script, either. You expect bad dialogue – “I’m thirsty as fuck!’” and “I never thought you’d come out of the closet” said, literally, to the President, as he comes out of, literally, a closet – and just hope it gets the laughs of derision it deserves.
No, this film has a moral irresponsibility that isn’t even made of its own internal logic. It has a baying crowd-pleasing sensibility though you sense it doesn’t even know who that crowd is, nor that the film makers even for a moment like that crowd – they just know they might fleece them for a bit of money if they give them the politics they think they want.
As the Muslim baddie hovers over the President with a scimitar, about to behead the leader of the free world live on YouTube, you shudder at the recklessness of creating such images in the current climate, in the name of popcorn entertainment, and to make money off of fools.
It’s not London thats’ Fallen – in films like this, its cinema itself that’s splattered all over the pavement.