Angel Has Fallen is directed by Ric Roman Waugh. The film stars Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nick Nolte, and Danny Huston. It’s the third film in a series, following Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen.
Secret Service agent Mike Banning rescues President Allan Trumbull from an assassination attempt, which leave the president in a coma and Banning hospitalized. When Banning awakens, he discovers he’s now the top suspect in the assassination attempt! Now on the run as a fugitive from justice, Banning must put his Secret Service training to the test in an attempt to clear his name, and to uncover the identity of the true would-be assassin.
I recall seeing the first film in this series, Olympus Has Fallen, several years ago in theaters. It was an odd mash-up of Die Hard and a political thriller, which I enjoyed despite its obvious derivative qualities. Let me be the first to say that, while Angel Has Fallen is the third movie in a trilogy, no knowledge of the previous movies is necessary to enjoy it, as it’s largely standalone, though you’ll have a better understanding of the characters and their situations if you’ve seen the earlier movies.
Angel Has Fallen is a well-cast film with the lead performances from Butler as a Secret Service agent turned fugitive from justice and Freeman as the President of the United States being solid enough, as well as a few surprise supporting roles. The action delivers, but the final experience ultimately falls flat because there’s simply nothing here we’ve never seen in an action thriller before.
The constants throughout the series have been Butler and Freeman, and both do solidly with what they’re given. You’ll totally buy their performances; Freeman is actually quite convincing as the President of the United States amid a foiled assassination attempt. Butler’s solid as the former Secret Service man on the run. But the surprise standout of the movie is Nick Nolte as the estranged war veteran father of Butler’s character. He steals every single scene he’s in, and I’d gladly pay full ticket price for a movie starring this character, or at least featuring him more.
While it does deliver on the action front (the opening “Drone Attack” sequence is quite exciting), the movie comes up short because, despite its ambition, it basically borrows too many elements from other better movies. How many movies have we seen about a wrongfully accused man on the run from the law, as he tries to clear his name? What about car chases? Chases through the woods? Shootouts in buildings? Two men hiding behind air conditioner units on a rooftop as they try to shoot one another? Friends and authority figures turned traitor? It doesn't help that the action scenes descend into the typical jerky "shaky-cam" nonsense with too many cluttered close-ups, making it difficult to tell friend from foe in such situations.
A major weakness of Angel Has Fallen is it reveals it traitors too early in the movie, and it’s pretty obvious who they are from the get-go anyhow, removing much of the potential suspense. We all have a pretty good idea how the movie’s going to end and what the final outcome will be, though I won’t deny it’s a fun ride at times despite the two-hour running time.
If you’re looking for a decent action thriller to close out the summer, Angel Has Fallen isn’t a masterpiece, but it’ll fit the bill. There are better movies out there, but I won’t deny there are worse ways you could kill two hours. Nick Nolte’s role and scenes are worth the price of admission.
Rating: Two-and-a-half stars out of four.
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