By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Three years ago, the movie Olympus Has Fallen failed to impress me. The Antoine Fuqua-helmed action vehicle comes across as a Die Hard imitator, loaded with action film clichés and terrible writing. So when I first heard that Olympus producers Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel and screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt had a sequel in the works, my initial reaction was negative. I thought I would have to sit through another mediocre, or possibly worse, waste of time. Well, as it turns out, London Has Fallen actually makes for a fun and thrilling time at the cinema.
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) continues his career guarding President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) for the United States Secret Service. However with his first child on the way, Banning begins to take under consideration the dangers of his job and how it could affect his new family. Before he can even make a final decision about his job and life, Banning must escort the President on a trip to London to attend the funeral of the British Prime Minister who dies unexpectedly. With all of the leaders of the Western world in attendance of the services, London becomes the target of a terrorist group led by Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul). Banning must use all of his skill and resources to protect the president and stop the terrorists from accomplishing their goals.
Returning screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt are joined by Chad St. John and Christian Gudegast and this proves to be successful in improving on the writing of the first film. The writing team for the movie loses some of the really annoying clichés of the first film, but at the same time, adopts some new ones for the sequel. The overall experience is much more tolerable, though, and the writing issues do not take away much from the enjoyment of the film.
Because he was already committed to working on The Equalizer, Olympus director Antoine Fuqua did not return to helm this sequel. However, to be completely honest, he really isn’t missed here. I have admired some of his previous films, but Olympus Has Fallen is not one of them. Swedish director Babak Najafi makes his U.S. film debut with London Has Fallen and proves he has the chops for fun, blockbuster fare. Najafi, cast, and crew have created and executed some impressive action sequences that kept me captivated and often on the edge of my seat.
The acting never really stands out above and beyond, deserving golden awards, but it serves its purpose credibly and adequately. Gerard Butler believably plays the role of a badass, hardcore killing machine and is intense and electric in his action scenes. Aaron Eckhart has the charisma and other leading man qualities to pull off portraying a President. Morgan Freeman also returns to portray the former Speaker of the House-turned Vice President Alan Trumbull. Freeman has an undeniable presence, charisma and eloquence and he is always consistent in bringing those qualities to his roles. Several of the Olympus cast members return, but really don’t have much to do, except look astonished and shocked. Aboutboul and co-stars Mehdi Dehbi and Waleed Zuatier may portray some cliché characters as the leaders of the attack, but they do commit to their roles well and offer solid work.
I must say that London Has Fallen is a much more solid piece of work than its predecessor. It may not be an outstanding action flick, but it does offer some well executed and exciting action. Fans of action, popcorn cinema will probably enjoy the movie, but I wouldn’t recommend spending more than matinee prices.