The FALLEN series, from the beginning, seemed cut from the same cloth as DIE HARD. Like that Christmas classic, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was about one every-day guy, this time a member of the Secret Service rather than just “a cop from New York,” who found himself in an extraordinary situation when the White House was overtaken by terrorists and its occupants held hostage. Fending for himself, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler, who has also produced the series) travels the halls of the locked-down building not just to save the hostages, among them the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart), or his entire administration, but DEMOCRACY AS WE KNOW IT. (Or, you know, something like that.) Its sequel, LONDON HAS FALLEN, takes the DIE HARD 2 approach by basically doing the same thing as its predecessor, but opening up the world a little bit and raising the stakes from one world leader to several. And now we have ANGEL HAS FALLEN, the DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE of the series, in that it knowingly tries to tweak the formula by putting its lead hero out into the wide world while still trapped in a really tough spot. And we’re still dealing with terrorists, though domestic this time, and Banning is on the run and buddied up alongside his curmudgeonly father (a scary looking Nick Nolte) in order to save the day.
At this point, you’re either on board with the FALLEN series, or you’re not. I laugh when I see someone talk up their enjoyment of any one film in the series but denigrate another because they really are all the same. It’s two hours of Gerard Butler taking out dudes, stabbing lots of heads (though not nearly enough heads are stabbed in this latest adventure), and eventually taking down the bad guy who you know is bad from the start even if he’s pretending not to be. ANGEL HAS FALLEN rides a fun, enthusiastic, and wholly predictable wave from start to finish. You can predict how the movie will play out beat for beat, right down to all the cloak and dagger/‘he was in on it??” stuff. But really, what matters are the action scenes – the only reason anyone watches these things – which are fleshed out and well executed. It’s especially rewarding to see that ANGEL HAS FALLEN primarily leans on practical, in-camera effects for some of its set pieces, instead of Millennium Films’ usual push for very, very cheap looking CGI. (The climax of ANGEL HAS FALLEN has a few scenes of extremely dodgy CGI, however, which by now is part of the FALLEN series’ identity, but thankfully these few scenes aren’t telling of the effects overall.)
As far as the few new things they try, well, first, there’s a new wife: Piper Perabo takes over for Radha Mitchell, who, for whatever reason, opted not to come back, even though they’ve finally given the character something to do besides look very alarmed at the news coverage about her husband’s latest brush with terrorism. Taking the DIE HARDWITH A VENGEANCE comparison a little further, the series has turned Mike Banning into someone still carrying the trauma from the last two films. His body is broken down and his head’s a mess both physically and mentally – so much that he doubts he can still do “the job.” (Of course he can though – no one comes to these movies to see old action stars reduced to supervisory roles as someone younger and brawnier does all the heavy lifting, unless, of course, that movie is TERMINATOR: DARK FATE.) And, as previously mentioned, this entry sees Banning on the run instead of confined to a building, framed for the attempted assassination of President Trumbull, played by Morgan Freeman, who has enjoyed a promotion in each subsequent flick. For an added bonus, a little LIVE FREE OR DIE HARDis thrown in when the terrorists hack their way into another building’s electrical system and take control of its utilities from afar.
ANGEL HAS FALLEN also wants to be “relevant” in our current political climate. That Banning “colludes with Russia” to assassinate the president, that the Vice President (Tim Blake Nelson) vies to make America “strong again,” and that he’s been done up to closely mimic real-life Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are all things that are hard to ignore, and they’re so broadly played that it’s obvious the movie wants to make sure even the least politically savvy members of its audience “get” the point. (Don’t look too closely into the name “President Trumbull,” though, as Freeman’s character has been part of the series since the very beginning — a lovely three years before the curse word “President Trump” ever became a permanent smear in the history books.)
The standard Blu-ray and the 4K UHD Blu-ray come packed with the same special features, which are as follows:
- “Even Angels Fall: The Story” Featurette
- “Someone to Watch Over Me: New Blood” Featurette
- “Calling All Angels: Casting” Featurette
- “True Faith: Authenticity” Featurette
- “Fight for You: Stunts and Action” Featurette
- “Earth Angel: Recreating DC” Featurette
- “Angel Declassified” 3-Part Audio Commentary with Director Ric Roman Waugh
Though it still has two more entries to go before it catches up to DIE HARD’s five-movie run (even though this trilogy so far is miles above the latest two adventures with the bald and bored John McClane), Gerard Butler has gone on record saying that he hopes ANGEL HAS FALLEN will serve as the series’ swan song, as the physicality of making them is starting to take its toll.And yet, recently, it was announced there are plans to make three more films in the series. Whether or not they will include Butler, or the character of Mike Banning, remains to be seen, but either way, I’m sure there are more institutions due to fall.
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Tags: Blu-ray, Creighton Rothenberger, Danny Huston, Gerard Butler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Katrin Benedikt, Lance Reddick, Morgan Freeman, nick nolte, Piper Perabo, Ric Roman Waugh, Robert Mark Kamen, Tim Blake Nelson