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Review: Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Premise: The third film in the Olympus Has Fallen series. A secret service agent (Gerard Butler) is framed for an attempted assassination of the President of the United States (Morgan Freeman). On the run from the law, the agent must expose a conspiracy before the assassins finish the job.

What Works: Olympus Has Fallen was bad and the sequel London Has Fallen was worse so it is a pleasant surprise to find that Angel Has Fallen is a competent and generally enjoyable action movie. It’s no classic—Angel Has Fallen is nowhere near the art and craftsmanship of John Wick 3 or Atomic Blond—but it’s not trying to be that either. This is a straightforward action picture that descends from the kinds of movies Jean Claude Van Damme would have made twenty-five years ago and Angel Has Fallen succeeds in providing action and thrills. This third installment is different from its predecessors in several ways. First, it makes Gerard Butler’s character much more likable and accessible than he was before. Butler’s character has been through two major action pictures and he’s worse for wear. Angel Has Fallen is the rare action picture that actually considers the repercussions of violence and while it doesn’t do anything especially deep with that idea it does give the film a little bit of humanity. Angel Has Fallen also has a sense of humor, which its predecessors lacked. The filmmakers hit gold with the casting of Nick Nolte as the father of Gerard Butler’s character. Their scenes together are both comical and dramatic with the two men poking fun at masculinity while also considering how war has shaped their lives. Angel Has Fallen also makes a play for political relevance and the plot includes allusions to contemporary events; it’s not exactly brilliant at this but it rips ideas from the headlines and mixes them up in some interesting ways. The production values of Angel Has Fallen are also improved. The special effects are much better than they were in Olympus Has Fallen and the action scenes are more restrained than those of London Has Fallen.

What Doesn’t: The action scenes benefit from a tighter scale but the set pieces tend to be cacophonous. The action suffers from a lot of jumpy camerawork and slipshod editing. And in a genre marketplace that is now ruled by the craftsmanship of the John Wick trilogy this isn’t competitive. Angel Has Fallen has plenty of dumb moments. Gerard Butler’s character is on the run and pursued by FBI agents who believe he tried to kill the President while the real assassins keeps sending an apparently endless supply of henchmen to kill the Secret Service agent. The FBI investigators are always a few steps behind and keep encountering piles of dead bad guys with machine guns and tactical gear but the Feds never ask where these henchmen are coming from. There are lots of other silly moments as well; the conspiracy plot is absurd and the dialogue is occasionally hokey.
Bottom Line: Angel Has Fallen is easily the best film in this series. It’s by no means a great movie but it is entertaining in a way its predecessors were not. This could be the end of the series or it could be a transformative moment in much the same way that Fast Five rejuvenated the Fast & Furious franchise.

Episode: #764 (September 1, 2019)