Movie review: “Angel has fallen” (2019)

“Angel has fallen” (2019)


Running time: 121 minutes

Written by: Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook and Ric Roman Waug

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Featuring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte and Danny Huston

FBI Agent Thompson: “Mike Banning, you’re being charged for the attempted murder of the President of the United States.”

Released this week in cinemas is the third part of a movie series that proves you cannot keep Gerard Butler down, at all, ever, in the uninspiring “Angel has fallen” (2019), a movie that harkens back to a time when most genre movies were big, dumb and predictable, this movie has all three of those descriptors in very large quantities. Whilst the first two movies centred around a secret service agent attempting to protect the President of the United States, first in Washington in the fairly successful “Olympus has fallen” (2013) directed by the very good as well as underrated Antoine Fuqua, then secondly in the less successful as well as mind bogglingly stupid “London has fallen” (2016) with Fuqua out (knowing the first one to be a massive fluke) replaced by Babak Najafinot suited to the genre at all. Now the third movie has replaced almost all of the previous cast (who have obviously decided that they really don’t need this on their resume) barring Morgan Freeman who in the most uninspired casting ever is now POTUS and of Gerard Butler who never turned a pay check down as well as retconning his present as well as his past giving (attempting anyway) him some depth with not only a wife (vastly younger of course), a baby and a Father, who seems way more interesting than the main character. It also attempts to make the movie a starrier vehicle by casting in support the completely wasted Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson and Danny Huston who all are so much better than the material they have been given must have all been wishing for smaller parts, or at least being killed off very quickly. 

“Angel has fallen” takes well-honed action tropes that have been developed over decades unloading them within the narrative of this movie seemingly random like in the very worst way possible as it is hoping that some of them will stick as well as trying to pass them off as original, which of course they are most definitely not. It also attempts to take current news stories and interweave them into this action genre narrative, which is like trying on a show two sizes too small. There is talk of fake news, Russian interference in elections, right wing influences on politics and a host of other ideas that come off as ad hoc which not only highlights the lightweight plot but it also cheapens those real elements by making the characters take them and use them for their own ends. There are also so many overused tropes within this narrative it is no wonder that it clocks in at an over two hour runtime, we see a best friend (never heard of prior to this entry) who is actually a bad guy, a long lost relative saving the day in the form of a Father who again has never been mentioned, a main character sidelined in this case the President in a coma, the main character being blamed for crimes he did not do, a main character operating outside the law, the vice-president attempting to seize power by being the architect of all the crime within the movie and a bunch of others. In fact a fun game might be to go through and counting how many tropes you are able to find. The problem is that in the past few years there have been so many great action movies that the genre has been redefined to such an extent that “Angel has fallen” seems like a relic from another century, which it is.

Co-written by Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook and Ric Roman Waug (the latter also directing) it is firstly surprising that with so many writers that something so trope laden as well as unsurprising and unoriginal could be produced, but that is a symptom of so many cooks in the kitchen. With so many people involved the product is normally what we find here, blandness, unsurprising plots, forgettable actions scenes and plot holes a mile wide. 

The movie itself is based around Secret Service agent Mike Banning who finds himself framed for an assassination attempt on President Allan Trumbull. Pursued by his own agency and the FBI, Banning race’s against time to clear his name and prove that Salient global, a private military company is behind this homegrown terrorist threat.

“Angel has fallen” is led by Gerard Butler who over the past two decades has proven himself to be an adept hand appearing in countless action movies, he is definitely committed to his roles physically as he is here but in terms of actually portraying honest characters with real motivations he does have deficiencies. Butler seems to go from 0 to 100 at the snap if a finger but modulation is an issue, which may explain why he seems so consistent in these action movies with little subtly. The rest of the cast is filled out with some very good actors in the form of Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Nick Nolte and Danny Huston. All of these actors know exactly the movie they are in adjusting performance where required but this narrative offers them no favours. Oddly enough the only real female character played by Jada Pinkett Smith who is not only short changed but is abruptly dispatched for no real reason, it seems like the screenwriters and producers could agree she was not wanted which also goes to the nature of the movie, something that is afraid of being original and embracing alternate voices.

It would be damning this movie with faint praise to say that this is not a terribly made movie especially given the budget of US$80 million which is not a huge amount for a studio made action movie with some high profile actors as well as more than a few action scenes. However there are issues especially where the plot meets not only the narrative but also the way it treats real events as well as nodding its hat towards real politics, this is something no throwback action movie should ever do. The reason is that the movie you are watching goes from fantasy to some stark reality which this narrative and the people behind are unable to handle, it is like pulling on a ball of string, it will all unravel eventually which this does. The plot holes within the narrative become larger and larger until by the time finally comes there are so many unanswered questions you realise that the way the main character movies from area to area is to dissuade the audience from asking too many questions.

With all that taken into account this is still a fun movie to watch od you want to turn off, but its not something I would go to the cinemas to experience. It is an old fashioned B movie that will be best seen streaming or on DVD/Blu-ray, much like many of Butlers movies, which is expected but a shame and does not say much for this work to come.

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