As summer came to a close, Gerard Butler and company welcomed the fall with the third installment of this unlikely trilogy: Angel has Fallen. Upon first glance of the trailer for this movie, I was perplexed by its existence. Who would’ve thought back in 2012, when Olympus Has Fallen was released in cinemas everywhere, that it would get not one, but two sequels? I enjoyed Olympus, and I even dug London has Fallen for being a silly throwback to 90s action cheese. However, in no way did I feel I needed this movie. Especially with the bit of a miss streak Butler has been on. I had absolutely no idea what to make of this movie’s existence. Then the trailer dropped the ultimate bomb by revealing Nick Nolte—complete with mugshot hair and beard—was in it and would be blowing stuff up. That was enough to get me to buy a ticket. What the movie ended up giving me was a bit more fallen and a little less Angel than the title promised.
This series has been highly inconsistent when it comes to direction. This is due mostly to the fact that each movie has been directed by someone new. It’s been a steep decline from Antonie Fuqua, who directed Olympus, to Ric Roman Waugh, who directed this one. That isn’t to say Ric Roman Waugh did a bad job here, because he didn’t. It’s just that this movie lacked a lot of the style needed to make it stand out or pop. Speaking of popping, that is something Ric Roman Waugh excelled at here—he sure knew how to show explosions and action. It’s none too shaky; you can always tell what is going on. These are important qualities in major action films these days, and this movie passes that base-level test. The action is good, and you can see it. It’s not John Wick, but it’s good enough. However, that’s where the positives kind of end when it comes to his direction. It just doesn’t stand out or feel different enough. It looks exactly as one would think it would. The movie has a ton of blue lighting and filters, and when it’s sunny, it looks oversaturated and orange. Waugh uses that really annoying tactic of adding a bit of film grain to the digital print of the movie. A lot of horror and action movies do that these days to give the illusion that what is being viewed is gritty, and it never looks good. That’s one of the advantages shooting on film has over shooting digitally; you never have to feign grit.
The plot is by far the weakest aspect of the film. This is such familiar territory that it feels like you’ll be coming home to this movie every night. There is a terrorist plot to frame Mike Banning (Butler) that leaves President Trumbull (Freeman) in a coma. The government is out to seek and destroy Banning. Of course, nothing is as it seems, a phantom menace is revealed to be the real baddie, and Banning has to stop them and clear his name. There are no surprises here. As soon as the audience sees certain actors on screen, they know who the villains are. However, the movie treats it as this big bombastic secret that nobody can put together, so the audience is a million steps ahead of the movie and is just waiting for it to catch up. It doesn’t make for a rewarding experience. The action set pieces carry on through the half-baked plot, but not enough to distract.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Conversely, this is the movie’s strong suit. I really do like Gerard Butler. I like how he is single-handedly trying to keep 90s action movies alive. As always, he is very charming and likable here. Even though this is no great shakes of a script, he is still giving it his all. He anchors this movie and is good enough to keep one’s interest. Morgan Freeman spends the bulk of the movie in a coma. It’s a bit of an odd flex to have a great actor reduced to that, but okay. There are two other big-name actors that I kind of don’t want to mention, because doing so would reveal who the villains are in the movie, and once again, the movie pretends it’s some big secret. I’ll just say the two villains of the movie do good jobs despite being horrifically telegraphed. However, Nick Nolte walks up to the register and steals this movie wholesale. He plays Mike Banning’s estranged father and is the movie’s strongest point. That relationship and how to the actors play off each other keep this from just being something to discard and forget. It’s nothing new or revolutionary, but it’s welcome. Nolte even pulls out some tears here. Very impressed.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I do not remember a single piece of music played in this movie. For as unmemorable as the music was, it might as well have had no music. Why hire a composer if they can’t produce a single memorable note for your movie? Action movies usually have a score that gets the heart pumping along with the action. None of that is found here.
The explosions for the most part are practical, which is a big plus in my book. If there was any CGI blood to be found here, it wasn’t noticeable. It boggles my mind to this day why a lot of action movies insist on using CGI blood; it never looks better than using a blood pack. So, I appreciated this movie sticking to its authentic 90s feel. If there were CG explosions or poorly rendered CG blood all over the place, it would’ve felt like a betrayal to the movie’s DNA.
Angel Has Fallen is probably the weakest of the trilogy. However, it is not without merit. R-Rated action movies are hard to come by these days, so it’s always refreshing to have one playing in theaters and doing well. This may have little to offer the younger crowd but would probably serve one’s grandparents or parents well. It’s very much a throwback and is not ashamed of that. Nick Nolte and Butler make this worth checking out when it hits digital. However, the been-there-done-that script and the lackadaisical direction keep this Angel lying flat on the ground.