March 8, 2016
Three years ago, Antoine Fuqua had a film entitled "Olympus Has Fallen" which introduced us to the charmed duo of US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his very capable chief of security Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). In that film, Banning single-handedly outwitted and disposed all the bad guys, averted a nuclear attack against the US in the nick of time, and rescued the President from certain death. It was a fantastic adrenaline rush of a film that was a surprise hit at the box office despite receiving mixed review from the critics.
In the sequel "London Has Fallen," President Asher is again in dire peril and Banning is left single-handedly protecting him. This time, their enemies have a bigger playground -- the whole city of London. The setting was the funeral of the British Prime Minister where all the leaders of the world have come to pay their respects. A Middle Eastern terrorist launches a major catastrophic attack against everyone in attendance. Every leader there dies, except (no surprise, of course) the eternally lucky US President Asher, thanks to his never-say-die bodyguard Banning.
There were a number of scenes when either Asher or Banning should have already lost their lives, but miraculously don't. However, the script made sure they would always escape by the skin of their teeth, or that the enemy will inexplicably tarry with the killing blow and give them a chance to fire back. The suspense the director creates in these scenes is so maddeningly manipulative in its sheer predictability. And these are by no means spoilers for a formulaic film like this.
Like the first film, the American patriotic fervor is stoked here with appropriate imagery and words. The key American leaders were all so well-cast. Aaron Eckhart, with his chiseled countenance and cleft chin, makes President Asher a handsome martyr whose broadcasted torture can certainly inspire tears from his people the world over, especially among his countrymen. As Vice President Trumbull, Morgan Freeman can read the phonebook and make it sound deeply inspirational. Of course, we all know what Gerard Butler can do as an action hero. Despite the fearless and superhuman things we see him do here, Butler still manages to convince us that he really can do these deeds of derring-do and save the day.
Just like the first film, writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt again cook up a suspenseful yarn with the same impossible hi-jinks that made their original one a hit. Replacing Fuqua as director is Iranian Babak Najafi in his big Hollywood debut. Everyone's focus will be on that initial attack, and Najafi was able to deliver a solid, heart-stopping sequence of shocking terrorism, albeit being over-the-top with unconvincing special effects. After that initial salvo though, the rest of the film becomes a prolonged (and even repetitive) series of car chases and gun battles we have already seen before. Everything builds up to a conclusion we all knew would happen right from the start. 5/10.