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It starts with a bang (very distinguishable India standing for the Philippines drone massacre) and after the mandatory “Two years later” card proceeds to a 40′ gleeful mayhem in which no less than six Heads of States are dispatched through a bloody carnage leaving the center of London eviscerated. After that it becomes a regular thriller for its remaining hour, albeit a violent one, its hero brutally played by Gerard Butler, not known for his lightness of touch. Accordingly, it starts and ends on very unpleasant notes. But let’s separate the grain from the chaff first.
More deserving a deconstructing recap than an analytic review, London Has Fallen is competently made by Iranian-born Babak Najafi, after some shorts, two episodes of Banshee and two feature films, first of which he directed in Sweden. Its premise is clever, if not novel: after the British Prime Minister dies “mysteriously”, leaders of the Free World congregate at the St Paul cathedral memorial service held for his State funeral. This is a nightmare scenario for logistics and security services alike. It’s also about to become a nightmare, period.
To enjoy this movie, suspension of disbelief is of the essence. You will have to accept that the London police force has been infiltrated by the personal militia of a vengeful arm dealer mourning his daughter. You will have to take at face value that even the Royal Guard has been infiltrated. You will have to be fatalist about the fact the “the most protected event on Earth” therefore becomes a fish-in-a-barrel shooting party. Your reaction will probably be “Why don’t they just blow up St Paul Cathedral once everyone is inside?”. Well, I’ll tell you why: it would be less fun.
The best moments of the movie are the Heads of State’s dispatch. Apart from the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart) and the Canadian Prime Minister, no one seems in a hurry to attend church. The German Chancellor (even more poorly dressed than Angela Merkel) is gazing at the changing of the Royal Guard, the French president procrastinates on a Riva Bella motorboat stationed on the Thames river, the Italian Prime Minister treats his 30yo mistress (one guesses) to a private visit of Westminster Abbey, while the Japanese Prime Minister… is stuck in traffic with only one driver and no security.
After all are dead but POTUS, thanks to Butler, an exfiltration turns really bad, killing Angela Bassett in the process, which is inexcusable. The two last men standing will have to find a way to avoid that the president is decapitated online for the whole world to see, an exploit they achieve by killing dozens of terrorists and exchanging one-liners. “I was wondering when you would get out of the closet” says his Head of Security to the President. What are they, f*** buddies?
It ends with what seems to be an inflection in Hollywood policy about terrorism. It is unpalatable, to say the least, to show the US military in full knowledge there will be collateral civilian casualties to yet another drone strike, especially so when the Vice President ordering it is played by Morgan Freeman, aka God. No doubt it has, and will, happened. But that it appears as just retaliation in such a movie makes one wonders if the neo-cons who left the White House have found shelter in the Dream Factory.