First it was Olympus, then London, and now Angel Has Fallen. No one really cares. The franchise’s audience is mostly teenagers interested in seeing some bullets flying and all kinds of objects blowing up. If it is not teenagers, then it is couples looking to hide in the farthest, darkest rows of a theatre to have some “together” time. And if it is not them, it is a poor chump in need of refuge from heavy rain.

Surprisingly, the film treats itself as if it was much more important, as if we have spent this decade anxiously following the adventures of the main character, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), as he bravely saves one world leader after another from ruthless antagonists. It would have at least been one thing if the film at some point in the franchise updated its politics and admitted that the ruthless antagonists are the world leaders themselves.

Butler returns to play the American (with more than a hint of a Scottish accent) secret service agent Banning in the third entry of the franchise. The film assumes we remember Banning from the previous installments, thus launching us directly into scenes where we are expected to care for the character.

He is getting older, so he is suffering from back pains and has a hard time falling asleep at night. A new father, he is also being eyed for a promotion, which he does not think he is going to take due to his chronic health issues.

It is only after the movie almost drags us into slumber with the backstory of Banning that it lunges into the plot. While he is with President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) on a fishing trip, drones attack. Somehow the president’s security detail does not include keeping an eye out for killer drones.

Only the president, who succumbs to a coma, and Banning survive the attack. This focuses all kinds of negative attention on Banning, who becomes implicated in the assassination attempt. He insists he is being framed, and given how conveniently he could be connected to the attack, the FBI should have believed his claim.

But, as in every terrible movie where the protagonist needs to come out victorious, lazy writers make every other character as slow-witted as they possibly can be. The only choice Banning is presented with, under these circumstances, is to make an escape for it and clear his name. This turns out to be easier done than said when the transport taking him to a detention centre is attacked, giving the protagonist a convenient getaway. If only life was as convenient as Banning’s consistent success in saving presidents.

It is said that a movie is only as good as its villains.

“Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph,” Roger Ebert, the late film critic, put it best in his review of the 1982 movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

None of the villains in the Fallen trilogy have done any of the installments, including this one, any good. Their motivations are often cartoonish, and their grand schemes belong in a Looney Tunes episode.

Take this film’s villains for instance. They hatch a plan to get rid of the president in order to get a change of policy in the use of private military contractors in the US’ foreign military campaigns - a big payday for the military-industrial complex.

But how do they plan to throw off suspicion from themselves?

They frame the very same person that is best known for saving world leaders on two different occasions for the assassination attempt of a president. They assume it is believable that such a person can now be bought by Russia in order to assassinate the current US president and sloppily leaving all kinds of trails that the FBI can piece together in about a day.

Obviously, Banning would be able to defeat such villains. I know I would.

Perhaps the only preserve from Angel Has Fallen’s one-dimensional bad guys is that one of them was played by talented character actor Danny Huston. Son of legendary film director John Huston, his performance - creepy, cruel and poignant - gives the antagonist a measure of two-dimensionality as the only redeeming facet of this utterly unnecessary movie.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 31,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1009]


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