The US president and his bodyguard work their way through a fallen London, taking out hundreds of terrorists.
We meet the president’s bodyguard (Gerard Butler) who is in a transitional time in his life. He has a wife and a child on the way, and he is on the verge of resigning, to take care of his family. We’ve met him before, in Olympus Has Fallen (2013). When the prime minister of England passes away, ostensibly from a heart attack, the US president (Aaron Eckhart) feels called upon to travel to London to pay his respects to his oldest ally. So does the rest of the world, and all the important presidents congregate. Aaron Eckhart is the perfect actor to show this idealist image of a good, honest and strong American, a bit similar to his role in The Dark Knight.
There are some funny moments when the film throws in some shots of the other presidents. We see a fake Merkel, a fake Hollande and something that should approximate a womanizing Berlusconi. Our main characters are also very standard issue, but we are actually treated to some warm moments within the president’s inner circle that nicely set up the relations.
Butler is called upon to protect his president for the last time, for what should be a little outing. The whole thing turns out to be a trap, though. The prime minister was poisoned to get all the world leaders to the same spot, and the entire London police has been infiltrated by terrorists. The film has a really quick pace. Just a handful of scenes introduce everything: a flashback to introduce the villain, the home situation of the bodyguard, his amiable connection with the president, one two three. After that, events move quickly. Everyone travels to London, everything explodes and off we go.
What happens next is the most long-running and unbelievable terrorist attack ever put on screen. It really goes beyond all sense of realism and for the whole movie I was basically dumbfounded, staring at the screen in disbelief. It is basically a never-ending terrorist attack that no one could ever plan in real life, and as a basis for a rather simple action story of Rambo-style survival, it is ridiculous. It just makes me chuckle throughout the movie.
It’s a survival story too, in Die Hard style. Since the terrorist attack is never-ending, even the president himself is asked to carry a gun. Large sections of the film are nothing but the president and his bodyguard working their way through London, killing hundreds of terrorists. Meanwhile, a news anchorman tells us that terrorists have blown apart all the famous landmarks of city. And in a handful of scenes, Morgan Freeman suddenly appears as the vice-president, only to explain some information for us, like the background of the villain. In the end you just have to give up and try to accept the film for what it is. If there is one thing we learn though, it is that there’s always another terrorist around the corner with a rocket launcher.
This is really a film of this time. It takes the threat of terrorism and dials it up to eleven, it shows the rest of the world mocking or hating America, and it gives us a very masculine image of the US president himself killing terrorists as an action hero. Only as an afterthought, Morgan Freeman appears to say some quick lines about engaging with the world and doing the right thing. The film barely skirts around racism throughout because it is such a blunt and over the top story. But it is very careful to show that there are people of Indian and Arab descent working on each side, and the head of Scotland Yard is an Indian.
Conclusion: London has Fallen is too ridiculous to take seriously. It is incredibly pandering to the point that it just tires you out. If you like non-stop action with a couple of one-liners thrown in, you will enjoy the film, but you will just have to shut off your brain.