I’m “biast” (con): hated hated hated the first two movies
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Good news, everyone! Angel Has Fallen — the uncalled-for threequel to the Nuremberg rallies that were Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen — isn’t as overtly, obnoxiously rah-rah pro-America propaganda as its predecessors. Instead it’s mostly just a sad retread of The Fugitive — also utterly uncalled for — that is dumb, pointless, confused, and laughably unable to convince us that Gerard Butler is an acceptable stand-in for Harrison Ford for us to empathize with, worry about, and/or thirst after. (This movie may have finally killed what small affection I once had for Butler. Though I have to concede that it’s not really the actor’s fault; he may just be chasing a juicy paycheck, and fair enough. His agent, on the other hand, has a lot to answer for.) Perhaps even worse, Angel has Jada Pinkett Smith(!) (Magic Mike XXL, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted) as the FBI agent after fugitive Butler, and while she has the potential to be a Tommy Lee Jones–level no-fucks-given badass antagonist here, the movie has no interest in that.
This time around, Butler’s (How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Hunter Killer) Secret Service agent, Mike Banning, is framed for an assassination attempt on, apparently, Movie President For Life Morgan Freeman (Alpha, Going in Style), and has to go on the run in order to prove his innocence and find the real miscreants, who are entirely obvious from their first seconds onscreen. I won’t spoil, but if you cannot immediately pick out the Bad Guys “hidden” among everyone else, you are even stupider than this movie hopes you are. Yes, I am saying it: Angel Has Fallen is the sort of movie that is, to all appearances, designed to make stupid people feel smart, by “letting” you figure out whodunnit while it acts like there’s any mystery at all to it. Angel Has Fallen may avoid the worst of the jingoism this time, but it has no problem with flattering an audience that it presumes is bottom-of-the-barrel imbecilic.
In case you don’t understand who the “angel” is who has “fallen” here, an ostensible news report in voiceover will explain that on-the-run Banning is the president’s disgraced “guardian angel,” a designation never previously heard in reference to the Secret Service, but whatev; let’s justify the movie’s title. Also there are characters telling Banning — and, by extension, us — that “looks can be deceiving” and “I just don’t know who to trust anymore” to prime you for looks being deceptive, even though they aren’t, and not knowing whom to trust, even though you can instantly tell whom not to trust.
I reiterate: This is a movie that has nothing but contempt for its own audience.
I mean, there could have been a bit of suspense and surprise if the movie even went through the motions of pretending that maybe Mike Banning might have been behind trying to take out the American president, because we all know that that could be a thing these days. Mike Banning, so virtuous and stolid! He could have a legitimately honorable reason for — *ahem*! — wanting to take out the supposed leader of the free world. But nope. It’s all a completely transparent setup, and President Morgan Freeman can today only be seen as a throwback to the more dignified time of, say, three years ago, his stateliness and, you know, ability to host a coherent press conference reminders of a saner world, when it would have been almost unthinkable for someone to want to take out a president over mere political disagreement.
But yeah, Angel Has Fallen is the sort of movie in which everything is precisely what it seems to be, even when that makes literally no sense whatsoever. There’s a deeply bizarre scene here in which the newly runaway Mike is confronted by (white male) members of the “Pine Mountain Militia,” eager to citizen’s-arrest him for the attempted assassination of *checks notes* a black US president who wants to cut off the gravy train that private military contractors have enjoyed in the 21st century. In the real world — our world, and the one in which this movie thinks it exists — these ammosexual assholes would much more likely want to help fugitive Mike for, as far they know, trying to kill a pacifistic probably-Kenyan-born probably-illegit president. Instead they want to apprehend him? *does not compute*
The levels of political and cultural cluelessness of this movie are appalling. The horrific body count among the anonymous cops and other law-enforcement figures who respond to Angel’s many action sequences appalls even me. I may be very much all “fuck the police” these days but I remember when there was a basic level of respect for the ordinary joe (and now jane) in uniform… and however unwarranted that may have been, this movie hasn’t the first clue about why that might be, or why it has been lost. So Angel somehow manages to be both proauthoritarian and antiauthoritarian at the same time. As someone wise I know likes to say, Piss or get off the pot.