“ANGEL HAS FALLEN” the third installment in the ‘Fallen Series’ starring Gerard Butler is coming to theaters this weekend. Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, and Jada Pinkett Smith fill out the cast with Ric Roman Waugh in the directors’ chair. The story in this one centers on Secret Service Agent Mike Banning played of course by Butler. He has repeatedly saved the President’s life during his career. But this time he is framed for an assassination attempt on the countries leader and will have to prove his innocence against all odds. Now people tend to put-down these types of action movies. I think in this age of films like “Mission: Impossible” and the “Bourne Identity” with their layered stories, and others like “John Wick” with their intricate fight choreography, have made people forget about the massive grey area in between.
Where a film can have a simple plot that might play out a little conveniently. Where the action may not be as choreographed, but still can pack a punch to provide a movie with plenty of violence. Where an 80’s action movie style lead can carry the film with his personality. When all these pieces are working together, it can create a great movie-experience, for the simple entertainment of it all. I think “Angel Has Fallen” is certainly one of those movies because I had a blast with it. Does it make you dive deep into thought on character motives or story directions? Certainly not. It also does feel predictable in places, and the narrative is a mash-up of dynamics we have seen together before.
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However, it was still a film that showed effort in wanting to entertain and stand on its own legs as a higher quality (Part III). It wasn’t a movie that felt like it was simply going through the motions similar to say what “Taken 3” gave us. The main character has grown from the last movie, this give us as the viewer more to see in this world. There is a collection of fun action-sequences as well that had a variety to them. The supporting cast all left an impression. Which was able to all come together into a film that you wouldn’t think was telling a familiar tale. From the last two movies this one went its own direction at times and continued the overarching story by exploring more of the relationships between the characters in certain spots which gave some added substance to invest in.
Mike Banning and the President have more time together with a couple enjoyable scenes between Butler and Freeman. Banning and his father are put together for the first time which allowed Nick Nolte to come in an create a surprisingly sincere performance. You wouldn’t think he was in a shoot’em up action movie, but it went a long way in giving the movie a surprising amount of heart. Sure, the story may have been formulaic. But there’s also enough substance and personality added to keep it from being a hindrance. Plus, when mixed with the fast-paced action, and doses of nicely timed humor to break the tension, there was an appealing flow to it all.
I think Butler was excellent in the lead and I love the niche he has found for himself in Hollywood. I think his range is under appreciated. But when it comes to action movies, he’s a fantastic option for a normal, grounded hero. “Olympus Has Fallen” came out in 2013 with a $70 million budget and grossed $170 million worldwide. Then came “London Has Fallen” in 2016. A movie I felt alone in liking, until I realized it made $205 million worldwide from a $60 million budget. So, while the consensus among critics may not be so favorable, I love these movies and a lot of you seem to as well. Butler once again was commanding in the lead. He was capable in the action scenes and he turns on the charisma when needed to capture this role perfectly once again. The dialogue isn’t overly cheesy, and he isn’t given one-liner’s. Instead he delivers simple responses to things that capture his charming personality and everyman feel. Which was a great contrast to when wasn’t breaking necks, getting his gun off, stabbing people, blowing things up, and running for his life from multiple groups trying to bring him in.
The cast was solid. But I certainly felt the bright-spot was Nick Nolte. I loved what he brought to the character, and the grounded impact his role had on the entire film. He captured a realistic chemistry with Butler that was able to capture both heartwarming and comical moments. Something that overall built a surprising amount of energy to the story progression. Huston and Freeman were both very capable as well and certainly elevated their roles screen presence and effort. I do think Jada Pinkett Smith was hampered with some surface level dialogue that just felt unnatural in how clearly was configures to move the story forward. But she did her best with what she had to work with. Although I think her role could have been beefed up a bit.
Overall, I think the action was fun and well-crafted to build plenty of suspense. There was a creativity to a few of the sequences that kept them from feeling stale. However not all the set-pieces worked for me. I think the action is at its best when it is large scale and loaded with destruction and mayhem and emotional impact. This is where Waugh in his direction does a great job of capturing the scope and intensity of what was happening. However, the more confined moments, such as a couple fight sequences were a little over-stylized and choppy. The handheld camera techniques were too shaky at times which hindered being able to see the ass-kicking. There was a sequence in a vehicle that could have been much more impressionable had it not been so dark and over-edited making it hard to see what was actually happening. But with a good amount of action from start-to-finish there was plenty of adrenaline pumping shootouts, chase sequences, and attacks.
They provide more than enough high-energy entertainment to weave among the bouts of story development. I went in wanting some great action and something that could capture my attention, and it succeeded. The major drawback to me was the overuse of green-screen. A handful of scenes were distracting, and I don’t know if it was due to re-shoots, or simply how movies are made at times. An example would be a scene where a helicopter lands on a building and it’s clearly a fake backdrop. Or another would be when on the lake the scenery around the characters was noticeably superimposed. Which was a theme in this one where the more simplistic backdrop in places would be digitized. When one would think making it practical, given the seeming ease of doing so once a real location is scouted, would have been the direction to take.
Regardless I still had a great time with this movie. It was familiar, but it was also filled with effort and for third film in a small action franchise it certainly holds up. It does run a little long, but it moves the narrative and the characters forward and doesn’t just slap some action together to sell tickets. So, if you liked the prior films, love Gerard Butler, or fun action movies, then give this film a shot.