Angel Has Fallen | Ric Roman Waugh | August 23, 2019
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh from a screenplay that both he and Matt Cook wrote along with Robert Mark Kamen, we catch up with Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), now protecting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). After all these years and previous heroic efforts, he’s well trusted by Trumbull and the rest of the Secret Service, and he’s almost due for a promotion to Director to replace the retiring David Gentry (Lance Reddick, John Wick Chapter 3).
But after an opening training session with old friend and fellow Army Ranger turned private military contractor Wade Jennings (Danny Huston replacing Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany), Banning’s left to deal with the physical and emotional after-effects of his grueling years of combat and protection. He continues to question if he’s able to keep serving the President, as well as be there for his wife Leah (Piper Perabo replacing Radha Mitchell) and daughter Lynne (Jessica & Maisie Cobley).
He’s put to the test when the President is out for an early morning fishing trip and they are attacked by a lethal fleet of drones that wipe out everyone except for the President and Banning, who upon waking up in the hospital to find himself the prime suspect in an assassination attempt on Trumbull. Trumbull’s in a coma, so Vice President Martin Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) is temporarily sworn in, and FBI Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) spearheads the investigation into Banning, who escapes custody and spends the next day or two evading all threats, clearing his name, and reuniting with his estranged dad Clay (Nick Nolte) along the way.
If you’ve seen any of the previous entries or, quite frankly, any mindless 80s/90s action movie, you know exactly what you’re getting with Angel Has Fallen, for both better and worse. Waugh doesn’t do much to give this genre an upheaval or offer up many surprises other than a few plot twists, which are quite predictable if you’ve seen enough of these films. While the action and set-pieces are solid enough to hold your attention for the two hours that it requires, the predictability and the often routine action starts to feel like a chore – not to mention the distracting cheap-looking CGI and too on-the-nose tie-ins to the Russian collusion zeitgeist.
Gerard Butler has made these sort of films his bread and butter of late and does what is required of him. It’s hard to find much to praise or really fault in the performance, as many of his fellow cast members are coasting by at the same pace. That is except for Nolte, who does try to bring a bit of dramatic heft to a film that is completely void of it. It’s not enough to elevate things much but it’s hard not to deny his impact of the film all the same. While not as strong, Danny Huston does enough scene-chewing with his role to add something fun to the mix.
One of the strengths of the series was the bond shared between Manning and former President Benjamin Asher, that mostly was due to the performance from Aaron Eckhart. He and Butler played well off each other and that just isn’t there in the same way with Butler and Freeman, despite a few nice moments. There’s a reason that Angel Has Fallen is released during the tail-end of summer as it’s entertaining enough to kill some time at the theater but nothing more than that.