When the British Prime Minster dies unexpectedly, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) knows it is his duty to prep with Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) for them to accompany U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to the state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. With every powerful world leader set to attend, the funeral should be the most protected event on Earth. Yet within moments of arriving, heads of government are assassinated and London landmarks are attacked. Asher, Banning, and Jacobs are ambushed and retreat amidst a hail of gunfire and explosives. The devastated British capital goes into lockdown. Banning will stop at nothing to secure Asher’s safe return home. Back at the White House, Vice President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) races against time brainstorming with top advisors in the Situation Room to get those trapped in London a lifeline of support and a way out. Outnumbered and outgunned, Banning reaches out for help to an English MI6 agent (Charlotte Riley) who rightly trusts no one. Failure is not an option as they attempt to stop the criminals from carrying out the final phase of their revenge plan.
There's a scene early in 'London Has Fallen' where U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) asks Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) how he came to be the man he is. "Bourbon and bad choices" is Banning's reply, but I'm guessing it might also be the reply if one queried the screenwriters on how they came up with this movie's plot. 'London Has Fallen' is a bad movie, and a huge step down from Olympus Has Fallen, a movie that many critics and moviegoers also had issues with, but which I enjoyed quite a bit.
This time around, President Asher (along with other leaders around the globe) is asked to come to London for the funeral of the UK Prime Minister. Naturally, given the events of the first film, the president wants Banning to head up his detail. As it turns out, the death of the Prime Minister was a plot by terrorist mastermind Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul) to get world leaders in one place so he can kill them all – the United States launched a drone attack on Barkawi two years earlier and his daughter was killed in the strike, so now he wants to exact his revenge – particularly on President Asher.
Okay, this isn't the worst of ideas for a film, but it's executed (pardon the pun) in the silliest and most unbelievable way possible. For starters, the Brits must really hate this movie. When the terrorist attack begins, it's due to the fact that there are terrorists who are already members of the British military and police...and not just a few – dozens! Every organization from the London police to the guards at Buckingham Palace seem to be infiltrated with bad guys. So, you need to work better on your vetting process for recruits, England.
Even more laughable is the way the leaders are picked off one by one during the terrorist strike. None of these people seem to have any serious security around them. The German Chancellor is at Buckingham Palace with maybe three or four people watching over her...and she's got the most protection. The French President is relaxing on a boat in the Thames. The Italian Prime Minister is hanging out on the roof of Westminster Abbey with his 30-year-old mistress and no one else around, and – in the most laughable of these scenarios – the Japanese Prime Minster is stuck in traffic on London Bridge with his driver...not an entourage, mind you...a single car with a single driver for this world leader!
Fortunately, President Asher has Banning with him, a one-man killing machine, so it's going to take a lot more to bring America's leader down. After the presidential limo gets smashed, it's off to Marine One (the movie also mistakenly refers to the two decoy helicopters as Marine Two and Marine Three, but accuracy is the least of the issues here) for a display of the worst special effects you'll see in a major motion picture this year. It also gives co-star Angela Bassett – who quite literally just seems to be "along for the ride" this time out – a chance to scream like a schoolgirl, despite the fact that her character is supposed to be head of the Secret Service and, one would think, should be a lot cooler in these kind of circumstances.
While the UK is going ka-boom, Morgan Freeman (playing the U.S. Vice President) is back in the "war room" of the White House, surrounded by an admirable list of fellow actors – including Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, and Jackie Earle Haley – all of whom seem to have no idea that there's a much worse movie being filmed elsewhere. Everything is somber and serious in Freeman's scenes, with the only annoying bit coming when the movie shows on-screen text introducing each of the Cabinet members and IDs Melissa Leo's character as the Secretary of 'Defence' – with no one working on this movie apparently realizing that Americans spell that word and title with an "s".
The movie also fails in its climax, giving us a showdown in a dark, abandoned building between the heroes and villains, which may be loaded with bullets and explosions, but is also pretty visually underwhelming. After all the smoke has cleared and despite the silliness that proceeded it, 'London Has Fallen' doesn't even give viewers the satisfaction of Asher and/or Banning taking care of Barkawi – that duty falls to Freeman, perhaps because Director Babak Najafi felt sorry he didn't give him much of anything else to do in the film. This is Najafi's first big-budget movie and his lack of experience shows. One can only wonder why 'Olympus' director Antoine Fuqua wasn't called back, or how much better this movie might have been if he were.
With all its problems though, I can't honestly say 'London Has Fallen' was ever boring. It certainly kept my attention for 99 minutes, even if most of that time was spent shaking my head at how dumb some of the screenwriting choices were here (and I'm guessing there's 100 more factual and continuity errors that I didn't pick up on). Also, if you like a lot of action, explosions, and violence in your movies, there's more than enough to go around here. One of the advantages to the film is that it doesn't give you too long to think about the stupid thing that just happened, because it's already along to its next stupid thing. Still, I'm only recommending this to fans who really liked the first film, and with the caveat that you aren't going to get something very good here, but not so bad that it's completely unwatchable. Go in with the correct mindset (set your brain to "clueless") and you might even have some fun. Alas, however, I'm pretty sure we won't be seeing 'Paris Has Fallen' in theaters anytime soon.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'London Has Fallen' shoots it out on home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD are housed inside a standard Elite keepcase, along with an insert containing a code for either an UltraViolet or iTunes copy of the film. A slipcover matching the artwork of the keepcase's slick slides overtop.
Although most of them amount to only 30-second clips, Universal has front-loaded a ton of trailers on this release. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with ads for 'Kubo and the Two Strings', 'A Monster Calls' (both of these first two are full-length trailers), The Young Messiah, Hardcore Henry, Triple 9, Eye in the Sky, Mr. Robot: Season 1, The Expanse: Season 1, and Hail, Caesar!. The main menu of the Blu-ray is the standard Universal design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selection vertically down the left side of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
I was actually a little surprised to discover that 'London Has Fallen' was shot completely digitally on Epic RED Dragon cameras (presented here at the 2.40:1 aspect ratio), as there are many shots in this transfer with what I assumed was grain in the background and now realize was actually digital noise. It doesn't intrude on every shot, but it's certainly present in a lot of the nighttime/darker moments, of which there are a good deal in this movie. Those darker scenes also suffer from a touch of crush, although not bad enough that viewers should have any problems making out what's going on – they're just not inky-deep blacks.
Also rearing its ugly head from time to time is aliasing, noticeable in one of the very first shots of the movie, as the camera pans along the steel fencing of a bad guy's compound. Other issues, like banding and/or macroblocking aren't a problem here, and I didn't notice any instances of either.
While the transfer has some issues, it's far from horrible and some scenes – like those that take place when Mike Banning is at home with his wife, which showcase very bright and almost exclusively white backgrounds – look very good in HD. Facial features are also, for the most part, well-defined throughout, and while some scenes aren't as razor-sharp as I would have hoped, few are ever soft or lacking in detail (but that works to the movie's disadvantage as well, as often special effects and/or green screen use is all-too-evident).
The featured track here is an English DTS:X one, which outputs as a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for those (like this reviewer) who do not have a DTS:X compatible system. As you might expect for a movie such as this one, this is the type of track that really shows off one's audio set up, with explosions, gunfire, fisticuffs, and just about every act of violence known to man (short of a nuclear exchange!) part of 'London Has Fallen's storyline.
If you're a big fan of LFE use and/or directionality, this is the track for you. Bullets whiz by, explosions result in rumbling and rocking, and everything is loud – real loud. In fact, that's my only real complaint about this track – the sound of all the action seems to be mixed a higher than the spoken word, causing me to keep my remote handy during the action-pack scenes, lest my neighbors think our apartment building was being attacked.
Everything is crisp and distinct here as well, and while I'm not giving the DTS:X track a reference-quality recommendation, it's still an impressive listen, and sure to please those who love aggressive audio with their action films. There's a lot of areas in which 'London Has Fallen' disappoints, but the sound isn't one of them.
In addition to the lossless DTS:X track, the Blu-ray contains a 2.0 DTS Headphone:X track (which is supposed to be compatible with any set of headphones), a Spanish 5.1 DTS Surround track, and a 2.0 DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Giving new meaning to the phrase "big, loud, and dumb" when it comes to action movies, 'London Has Fallen' turns out to be a huge disappointment, but not a dull one if that's any consolation. There's enough action here to occasionally distract viewers from the fact that the storyline is pretty silly and not very smartly written. This is definitely something to rent, and even then I'm only recommending this to those who were fans of the first film.