Length: 99 minutes
Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast, Chad St. John
Dir.: Babak Najafi
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
I have no idea why this is a franchise now. I’ve only recently seen the first instalment – 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen – and I found it a bit forgettable to be honest. I mean, I heard it was the better of the two ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movies that came out that year (the other was called White House Down, which I have yet to see), but that’s not saying much.
Following on from the events of the first film, Mike Banning (Butler) is once again best mates with the President (Eckhart) and back on body guard duty. After the sudden death of the British PM, Banning and the Prez head to London with other world leaders to attend the state funeral. It turns out that this was part of a terrorist plot to assassinate all the world leaders… yeah, it’s pretty silly. Banning escapes with the Prez and spends the rest of the movie trying to get him out of London. That’s pretty much it.
So the premise is pretty ridiculous, but no more so than other action movies. Where the film really falls down in its pure laziness. There’s a sequence early on that places some of the world leader at the site of various tourist attractions in London for no other reason than blowing up the landmarks. The logic behind this is never explained and it’s so perplexing that it really takes you out of the story.
The narrative is rushed and confused – it can’t seem to figure out what it wants to be; a buddy movie, a thriller, or a straight action movie. It skips between these at random intervals with Banning and the Prez sharing some cringe-worthy dialogue; a Spooks-style subplot involving an MI6 agent trying to root out a mole in the British command centre; and surprisingly boring and overly long action sequences when Banning storms the baddie HQ. None of these aspects are given enough time or detail – which is a shame. I quite liked the dynamic between Banning and the President, and the spy-thriller stuff had some legs but the screenwriters just didn’t focus on them as much as they should have done.
I would talk about the actors, but there is really no point when the characters were so boring. Everyone does okay, I suppose. Butler’s American accent is a bit wobbly in places, but other than that there’s nothing worth commenting on.
Given that the writers borrowed so heavily from the first Die Hard movie in Olympus Has Fallen (seriously, some of the scenes are exactly the same), you would have thought that they would have made the main character more relatable. While John McClane was the reluctant hero who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Mike Banning is a total psychopath. He kills, maims and tortures his victims without batting and eye, has an unhealthy obsession with stabbing things, and swears like a sailor’s wife at a storm. I think they were trying to paint him as an anti-hero, but I found him to be totally unlikable. He’s pretty much the embodiment of the phrase ‘the ends justify the means’ and I just couldn’t get behind him as a hero.
On that note, the film has a tendency to indulge the worst aspects of nationalistic jingoism – in that way that so many American action movies do these days. The film opens with a presumably extra-judicial assassination attempt by the Pentagon – targeting the main bad guy and his family – via a predator drone strike. I had hoped that the film was going to include some commentary about America’s foreign policy or the ethics of drone strikes in general, but it doesn’t ever discuss this. Instead we are treated to an unsettling sequence at the end of the movie where they bomb the bad guy again – apparently having learnt nothing – with a justification that amounts to ‘this is what we do, so deal with it.’ After and hour and a half of the film, we arrive back at exactly where we were before. Great.
All in all, I can’t say I recommend this film. There was the odd funny line and an enjoyable scene or two (the aforementioned spy-thriller section gets a decent pay off – undermined slightly by how incompetent one of the spies is), but it is not enough to make up for the inconsistent story, boring characters and God-awful CGI. And despite all of this, I can guarantee that Hollywood will already be working on a sequel. Set in Russia. Called ‘The Kremlin Has Fallen’.
I’m calling that right now. It’s definitely happening.