Review: Angel Has Fallen
The third entry in the Fallen series, Angel Has Fallen, is the best of the bunch. It's actually an easy hurdle to clear, considering the original film, Olympus Has Fallen, wasn't even the best Die Hard-in-the-White-House film that came out that year (I'm still waiting for a sequel to the the far superior White House Down, by the way). The sequel, London Has Fallen, had a lingering, jingoistic aftertaste, and it doesn't help that the action is stale, expect for that "one take" sequence that was clearly made in that post-Birdman phase where every film and TV show had a flashy "one take" sequence. When the goods are clearly there—the goods here being Gerald Butler playing a grizzled, head-stabbing Secret Service agent named Mike Banning—it feels good to see it play out how you always wanted it to. Angel Has Fallen is pulpy, absurd, and, most importantly, fun.
Following the events of Olympus and London, Agent Banning finds himself yet again protecting the President of the United States, this time he's serving under President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman)—the film only makes a very brief mention of the "car accident" from the first film and also does not feature in any way Aaron Eckhart's President Asher, which is odd considering his and Banning's friendship in the first two films. There are only a few brisk scenes of exposition, pushing Banning as an aging soldier, who's doubting whether he wants to settle down with a desk job duty, serving as head of the Secret Service, a promotion he put himself up for the sake of his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and their toddler. But, Banning once again gets into the shit when the President's fishing trip is interrupted by an assassination attempt that kills Banning's team and puts the President in a coma. Banning is the only agent to survive the attack and is subsequently framed, leading to a The Fugitive-style chase, as he escapes custody and tries to clear his name.
Now, is Angel Has Fallen rather simple in its plotting? Absolutely. You will for sure never be surprised by each twist or turn here. Take the question of who set up Banning? Was in the Russians? Was in someone inside the Secret Service? Was it the Blackwater-esque military contractor, run by Banning's old military buddy Wade Jennings, played by Danny "I always play the bad guy" Huston? Well, you'll just have to watch to learn the obvious answer. But what stands out in Angel is how ridiculous things get while also keeping you thoroughly entertained without skipping too much of a beat.
In his escape, Banning turns to the one person he knows can stay off the grid, his father Clay (Nick Nolte). Clay is old, grumpy, anti-government, breaded, and somewhat regretful that he walked out on his family all those years ago. The father and son dynamic barely works but then Clay detonates several tons of explosives off at his complex once the bad guys find them. Let me tell you, there are few things as satisfying as watching a bearded Unabomber-lite Nolte blow bad guys the hell up on Apocalypse Now proportions. Whenever the film dips into dumb, boring, or weird, it jumps back into well-executed gripping action, ridiculous as it all may be. A few lackluster plot twists and laughable plot contrivances later, Banning finds himself leading his Secret Service team once again near the end of the film, but what follows is a pretty damn fine action set-piece filled with rounds of ammo, huge explosions, and wild knife play (obviously and thankfully).
What could have easily been another dry, lifeless entry in this franchise that has always struggled with what it is (I mean, is it Die Hard, is it Jason Bourne, is it Mission: Impossible?), Angel Has Fallen has finally shown us what it can be. Dropping all the seriousness of the previous two films, what we have here is a rollicking absurd thriller, that could easily be mistake for a direct-to-video actioner from the '90s. Even its politics are all over the place, making it stand for absolutely nothing by the end. You can almost see the VHS static at times, as the film feels almost as out of time as Agent Banning himself, but in the best way possible. Don't expect Angel to change your perception on... anything, really. Lose yourself in the action and the absurdity, and for once this summer, have a good time.