Review: Angel Has Fallen (2019) – Banning, Last Blood

Gerard Butler in Angel Has Fallen

Starting in 2013, the Fallen series started. Angel Has Fallen is supposedly the final chapter in a trilogy of films that set out to return a sense of 80s/90s machismo to Hollywood while attempting to say something pertinent about the state of American politics. Despite the films liberal leanings, this isn’t a film consumed with the notion of teaching people a lesson, instead, encouraging patriotism and steadfast bravado, the kind that doesn’t quite mesh in a film literally about being betrayed by your country.

Telling the continued story of secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who after saving the day on multiple occasions is facing the after-effects of his constant injuries. Forced to reassess his position and whether or not he should still be doing this job another crisis forces him to act. When he is framed when things go drastically wrong he must try and clear his name and protect the president one last time.

While the series as a whole is essentially a callback to films like Rambo, True Lies and Air Force One, Angel strikes a sombre tone, for the most part, a straight-laced thriller designed as a throwback to the original, the classic trilogy capper. Butler plays Banning straight even when the film devolves into some questionable comedic moments, one of which including the careless dispatching of nameless goons in a series of fireballs. The tone here doesn’t mesh with the performances or the oddball 80s, Expendables caper that is on offer.

The whole ordeal feels confused and dated. Not only that but the plot, a mixture of classic 80s double-crosses and pointless, redshirt side characters, is equally confused. Jumping through the story with no real set up or payoff, the film’s climax seems tacked on, a dry conclusion to a film with a clear lack of direction. Emphasising the film’s uncomfortable editing style, the quick cuts between scenes match the equally rapid cuts during many of the films action sequences.

Relying heavily on sequences of flashing action and some jarring shaky cam, it is hard to make out, even enjoy the thrills here as they are obscured by an unfortunate motion blur, one that seems utterly avoidable. In fact, at times it feels like there is a war within the film itself between the practical effects it so desperately wants to make work and the overabundance on CGI shortcuts. The ideal scenario is where the two work in tandem, complementing each other. Here they counteract each other.

The film’s opening drone strike feels outlandish despite the practical explosions and fire-suited stuntmen because they aren’t working together, one shot will rely on programming while the next will be entirely practical making the two incongruous.  This has a damaging effect on the film’s stakes. Almost nothing matters because it doesn’t feel right. Moments of tension play as farce. A final showdown on a rooftop feels entirely plastic. The moment of release the film has built towards feels akin to the kind of enjoyment one might get out of finishing a really hard level in a video game.

As escapism, Banning’s final chapter works just fine. It’s playful but in all the wrong ways, it doesn’t stretch the viewer’s patience while never really asking much from them. It’s far fetched in the same way the Fast & Furious films are but never really feels amusing in the same way. However, it never commits to the action movie lie, the idea that although none of this is real, it is in the world it’s characters inhabit. It feels fake and for that reason, it just feels lifeless. The film starts with a simulation, it never really leaves it.

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