How many times can something be fallen with the life of a US president at stake? Third time’s the charm, it would seem. Angel Has Fallen once again has Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) trying to save the life of US President, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). However this time Banning has been framed for the failed assassination attempt on the President. On the run from his own agency and the FBI, he must find a way to avoid capture while saving the leader of the free world.
While I enjoyed 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen and its 2016 sequel, London Has Fallen, I was a little worried the entertainment factor would have – wait for it – fallen with this being the third installment in the series. With basically the same plot as the others and the same lack of funding for its CGI effects I was sure Angel Has Fallen would disappoint me. And yet, despite the dumb story, poor CGI and the same character motivation for Banning, I thoroughly enjoyed it because… well what can I say – I’m a sucker for guns, vehicle chases, explosions and Gerard Butler. I’m a simple creature. I know.
After participating in some training at a private military facility owned by his old army friend Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is part of a protection detail for the President who wishes to go on a fishing trip. Naturally things go wrong and they are attacked by killer drones resulting in only Banning and President Trumbull surviving. With the President in a coma, Banning wakes up in hospital to find that the FBI have a ton of convenient evidence that point to him as being responsible for the assassination attempt.
Handcuffed to a hospital bed, Banning tries to convince FBI Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) that he’s been set up – but she’s having none of it. Despite his heroic actions in the previous two films that would make Banning the last person you’d accuse, Thompson knows she’s got the right guy because she has his DNA at the scene of the crime and has found Banning’s supposed “encrypted files” that were on the “darknet”. Then before you can say – how did they find these encrypted files on the darknet in such a quick time – Banning is being plastered across the media as a criminal and taken away to be imprisoned – but not before the obvious bad guy intervenes…Did you guess it was the old army buddy?
While en route to to be imprisoned, private military contractors working for Jennings hijack the transport containing Banning. But what they didn’t count on was Banning never giving up. Freeing himself from his would-be captors and realizing his old friend is behind everything, Banning tasks himself with proving he’s been framed and to protect the President once again. But with the law after him and his family in danger he can’t do it alone. Fortunately his anti-government, Vietnam-vet father Clay Banning (Nick Nolte) is closeby and, despite the friction between them, is more than happy to help his son out of a violent jam and stick it to the man while he’s at it. But is it enough to save his family, save the President and prevent a war with Russia?
Gerard Butler has been here before and delivers another respectable performance as duty-bound, patriot-oozing Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. The story tries to add a little more dimension to his character by giving him some medical conditions that he hides from those he loves. Insomnia, a damaged spine and headaches are all conditions Banning must now secretly take medication for as a result of his physically demanding career. In the scene with his doctor I was waiting for Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon to pop up and quip “You’re too old for this shit”. Because that’s the vibe the filmmakers are going for.
And truth be told, Butler is starting to look like he’s too old for this shit. Despite the newly introduced medical conditions designed to slow him down, however, nothing seems to stop his character from annihilating scores of military guys half his age so it just felt like a half-assed character trait to be honest. Thankfully, this is an action movie and Butler knows how to do action so forget about all that character development stuff – just watch this for him kicking ass and being an American hero.
What does add something new to the franchise is the introduction of Banning’s father played by Nick Nolte. Nolte brings a much needed new flavor to the “Fallen film series” cast by playing a very flawed yet insightful character who looks more like a homeless beggar than the father of America’s biggest patriot. He’s the opposite of all the clean-cut government agents and military personnel and is definitely too old for this shit. But don’t let the gray hair fool you: this grizzled Vietnam vet is full of fighting spirit and who else better to play a hardened old man living with his own personal demons than Nick Nolte? He even gets most of the funniest bits. Nolte is definitely my favorite actor in this film and I think it would have been a much lesser experience without him.
Given his vast experience in stunts for nearly every major action movie made in the 90s, it’s no surprise that director Ric Roman Waugh (That Which I Love Destroys Me, Snitch) has made a pretty good action movie, despite its dumb story. Let’s be honest, most action movies have questionable plots but that’s not why we watch them. But where the plot falls short of meeting the mark, the action sequences are well executed with a cheese platter of sequences ranging from gun fights, knife fights, car chases, explosions and soldiers using cool toys.
Like the previous films, however, the “special effects” are anything but, with laughably bad green screen shots and unnecessary CGI for vehicles and other elements. These bits look so fake they often remove any tension from the otherwise well-crafted action.
Angel Has Fallen is a pretty standard, yet enjoyable action movie that ticks most of the boxes the genre demands. It’s got enough to keep action fanboys happy and generally entertained, and while Butler may be getting up there in years he’s still capable of delivering a solid performance when he needs to. Despite this being the third Fallen film the story really doesn’t add anything new to the mix, and it’s astonishing how awful the CGI effects continue to be. Man, I miss the days when filmmakers blew up real stuff in real places. Maybe it’s me that’s getting too old for this shit because that’s pretty much what constitutes most action movie franchises – serving up the same stuff until it becomes a farce.