Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Angel Has Fallen (2019) gave me a headache. Perhaps it was the vertigo inducing camera work. It could have been the gratuitous body count and poorly rendered CGI blood spatter. More likely, it was trying to decipher what on earth Gerard (just what is your accent doing?) Butler and Nick Nolte, two of cinema's most interminable mumblers, were saying to each other. All that was needed was Sylvester Stallone added to the mix, and the whole mumbling ensemble would be complete. (Needless to say, this didn't happen, but a trailer for the upcoming Rambo: Last Blood (2019) provided a glimpse of just how amusing this might have been). Angel Has Fallen is ridiculous, but darn, if I didn't enjoy the heck out of it. The '...Has Fallen' series continues in the same 'dialogue turned down, explosions turned up' mould of overblown mayhem. Olympus fell, London fell and now the President's guardian angel, Mike Banning (Butler), must also fall. Butler continues as 'one-man army' Banning, managing to miraculously dodge hails of bullets that others aren't so fortunate enough to avoid. This time, however, Banning is a fugitive, framed for an assassination attempt on President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman).
Nolte's patented gruff and haggard demeanour ... makes parts of the film genuinely funny.
The problem with the previous films in the series has been that they have taken themselves too seriously. Any of the perceived 'jokes' in the forgettable Olympus Has Fallen (2013) or the dire London Has Fallen (2016) have either fallen flat (no pun intended) or clashed with the uneasy and often mean-spirited tone of the films. However, Angel Has Fallen navigates this issue quite effectively by introducing the character of Banning's estranged father Clay (Nolte), a ‘Nam vet who Banning locates living in the woods whilst he is on the run. The inclusion of 'hero's long-lost father' is by no means an original plot development in films such as these, but Nolte's patented gruff and haggard demeanour brings much welcome levity to proceedings and makes parts of the film genuinely funny.
Angel Has Fallen is the lowest budgeted film of the series (reportedly $40 million in comparison to $70 million for Olympus Has Fallen), which may account for it being a more character-driven film – though, admittedly, if most of the characters are being driven backwards at speed through fiery debris. That said, it's probably safe to say that nobody who goes to see Angel Has Fallen is there for character development or dialogue. Apart from the aforementioned Nolte/Butler dynamic, much of the rest of the script is by-the-numbers cliché. If you've turned up for special effects, there's not much to shout about there either, though a fairly impressive drone attack (no, I'm not talking about Nick Nolte again), and an amusing explosive interlude in the booby-trapped woods are, for want of a better phrase, ‘highlights’.
Angel Has Fallen ... comes out as the least worst of the ‘…Has Fallen’ series.
Perhaps the rest of the budget was spent on the cast, which includes the always reliable Danny Huston as Branning’s former colleague Wade Jennings and a suitably slimy Tim Blake Nelson as Vice President Kirby. The motivations of these characters are perhaps visible from a good few miles away, but they are performed well. Piper Perabo steps into the recast role of Banning’s wife Leah with effectiveness, but faring less well is Jada Pinkett Smith as beanie-hatted FBI Agent Thompson; a character whose perception of events seems to be at least three steps behind the audience. There’s dramatic irony and then there’s just plain ineptitude. (Aside from all this, a major quibble I do have is that if you are casting Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States, do not commit the cardinal sin of having him laid-up in a coma for a third of the film).
Angel Has Fallen won't linger long in the memory, it is far from original, and there are many occasions where it might remind you of films that have done this better, but it is a fun, engaging, explosive two hours for those who like that sort of thing. As unnecessary as Angel Has Fallen arguably is, it comes out as the least worst of the ‘…Has Fallen’ series and, despite my better judgement and a headache, I liked it. Stick around for a mid-credit laugh too.