The “Fallen” franchise is definitely an interesting series to say the least. While far from the definitive action series of the 2010s you have to respect how Lionsgate has been able to create a small, but popular series out of a pretty generic idea focusing on a secret service agent attempting to fight off attacks on the President’s life. Every three years we’ve seen a new feature added to the series with “Olympus Has Fallen” debuting in 2013, “London Has Fallen” in 2016 and now “Angel Has Fallen” is 2019 which is supposedly the final film in the series…we’ll see, I guess. Anyway, “Angel Has Fallen” comes at the perfect time where few action offerings are there to compete and the box office is finally starting to slow down as the fall movie season kicks in. So, let’s see how this alleged final entry in the franchise plays out. This is my review of “Angel Has Fallen”.
Taking place an unspecified time after “London Has Fallen”, “Angel Has Fallen” see Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) having been elected to President after serving as both Speaker of the House and Vice President in the past two films respectively. Trumbull has embraced a platform bent on avoiding the use of private contractors to take the profit out of war and conflict. United States Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is still the president’s top “guardian angel” but is heavily considering retiring from active duty to take the position of Secret Service Director. However, when a drone attack leaves the president in a coma and Banning’s entire team dead Banning is framed for the attack turning him from a national hero into an accused terrorist. Banning escapes custody only to discover that an old friend has conspired against him in order to undermine the president’s stance against private contractors in war. With the president’s life still at risk, Banning turns to unlikely partners, including his estranged father (Nick Nolte), to clear his name and save the president once again.
I’ll admit I never really saw much in the first two “Fallen” movies. I embraced them exactly as they were meant to be embraced, as out of control and over the top action flicks that pay less attention to story and quality and are focused more on providing pulse-pounding thrills and energy. That’s pretty much what you get with “Angel Has Fallen” as well, although with more impressive practical effects. The first two movies were oversaturated with budget CGI and confusing, often too ridiculous action set pieces and while this third movie has plenty of the latter, it does provide much more convincing effects and visuals than both its predecessors thanks to its somewhat smaller scale. Even still though, “Angel Has Fallen” is not a film to be taken seriously. It really only cares about giving you the action you expected and nothing more while only slightly trying to further the personal stories of its lead characters.
Usually settling for what’s expected is a huge red flag for a film like this, especially a sequel, but with “Angel Has Fallen” it surprisingly maintains a lot of the charm, quick pace and energy of its predecessors even if the chaos is more focused and much less widespread. Even going in not expecting much I found myself invested and having a good time with some great laughs and some fun, if predictable, twists keeping me guessing the whole way through. It’s kind of neat to see a movie that so shamelessly embraces clichés and yet is also able to throw a curveball once in a while to keep you on your toes. People die that you expect to live, the real mastermind provided a real “I should have seen that coming” reaction for me when it was revealed, and there’s always this underlying feeling that Banning is struggling with how to approach his mission because it requires him to face off against both friends and enemies often unaware of who is truly on his side. After all we saw him go through in the first two movies, it is neat to see him have to juggle with doing the right thing and embracing that animal that makes him such a good agent. He could easily take everyone down, but he has to pick and choose his battles for fear of becoming the monster everyone thinks he is. A lot of movies of this type that see a good guy painted as a villain have the hero shamelessly injuring or maiming good guys to escape, but “Angel Has Fallen” feels more concerned with finding a balance between Banning’s push for survival and his willingness to preserve the lives of those just doing their job. We still get plenty of crashes and fistfights, but it’s a nice touch that the film feels genuinely focused on Banning’s integrity even as he seeks to escape custody.
A big reason why “Angel Has Fallen” works the way it does is because it is so familiar. It takes very few risks, follows a pretty basic path and structure, and while it does attempt to touch on some intriguing and complex themes like profiteering and the willingness to know when to quit it uses these ideas as more of a way to push the story forward rather than explore different avenues available in the narrative. It just plays it too safe and while that is great for fans of the series or anyone simply looking for a fun two-hour waste of time it results in an experience that lacks much substance beyond fun explosions, twists, and gunfights. We’ve seen this all before and we’ve seen it better, even from this very franchise. It’s fun to see it again but it’s not too much to ask for maybe something a little more original from a third entry. Now you might tell me that it is original because this time the good guy is being framed for trying to kill the president, but even the villain’s plan feels really stupid and convoluted. In fact, the big bad’s scheme felt reminiscent of the bad guys from last year’s “Equalizer 2”, which ironically was directed by Antoine Fuqua who directed “Olympus Has Fallen” where a friend of the hero turns on them leaving the hero no choice but to fight against someone he once trusted to get the job done. It’s an all too common idea that numerous films have done a lot better with more competent writing. Overall, there’s a severe lack of effort or originality to fully justify this threequel. The filmmakers knew all they had to do was rinse, lather and repeat from the previous movies and it shows…in fact that’s an appropriate metaphor because this feature feels even more watered down than the first two in my opinion.
Even then it’s important to remember why this film was made. Like many three-peats, this feature was created with the unapologetic goal of satisfying its target audience. Nothing more and nothing less. Despite its attempt to shake up the status quo by making the hero the suspect, we all know he isn’t guilty and so we all know the eventual result will be him finding the real criminal and win the day. It’s predictable, it’s cliché, and it’s much less interesting than the first two movies and yet it’s still a decently fun ride that does what it needs to do to create an engaging experience. If you watched the first two movies this is a perfect follow-up that (hopefully) wraps everything up nicely. If this franchise hasn’t interested you in the past, “Angel Has Fallen” probably won’t do much to draw you in the third time around. I won’t go so far as to call it lazy. There are glimmers of inspiration and some neat attempts to try and do at least something new with this the franchise. Even then, the final product as a whole is nothing new for the genre. For what it’s worth “Angel Has Fallen” was a fun waste of time, but that’s all it is. A waste of time in one way or the other.