FIRST, it was “Olympus Has Fallen” versus North Koreans in 2013 then “London Has Fallen” versus jihadists in 2016. They grossed $170 million and $206 million worldwide, respectively, so it’s not surprising that there’s another sequel, “Angel Has Fallen”, making this franchise a trilogy. It brings back Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, a grizzled secret service veteran facing his most scary enemies, his own best friend and private mercenaries who are all out to get him.
Each movie has a different director and this time, it’s former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, but he sticks closely to the same formula. The hero is framed up for attempting to kill U.S. Pres. Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman this time, he was Speaker of the House in ‘Olympus’ and the VP in ‘London’) and he is left on the run to clear his name and bring down the real culprits. As usual, there’s plenty of shooting and explosions for hardcore fans of this action genre, so, happy new year!
Because of the gruelling encounters he had in the previous movies, Mike is now in pretty bad physical shape, slowed down by some of his past injuries and taking pain killers. Pres. Trumbull offers him to just become the secret service director for the sake of his wife (Piper Perabo) and child. But Mike doesn’t like the idea of just being stuck in an office job pushing papers on a desk and he’d much rather prefer to be the president’s personal guardian angel.
During a fishing trip with the president, they are subjected to a well-coordinated attack by killer drones that killed so many secret service agents. Mike’s presence of mind and quick response saved the president from death but he is left in a coma. Mike himself is then framed for the assassination attempt and accused of treason and colluding with the Russians to do it.
Soon, the FBI led by the imperious Agent Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith), arrests him and takes him into custody. But of course, they cannot keep him and he manages to escape. They relentlessly pursue him and he has to evade being captured to discover who is the real mastermind behind the killings. The bad guys are all professionals and Tim Blake Nelson plays the hawkish Vice President Kirby that oddly reminds you somehow of Donald Trump in wanting to Make America Strong Again.
Gerard Butler also serves as producer of this franchise and he has wisely chosen Waugh to direct this third outing as Waugh imbues “Angel Has Fallen” with a no-nonsense approach and bare-knuckled urgency that also serves some valid message about how war takes a spiritual toll on soldiers. Mike reunites with an old friend in the military, Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), who now heads a company of mercenaries and is easy to guess as one of the villains. He also later asks the help of his estranged dad, Clay (Nick Nolte), who has previously abandoned their family.
During the action scenes, Waugh knows how to make good use of silence to further heighten the tension and even the car chases and shootouts are not as over the top as the two previous movies. The big drone attack is well staged and executed with some ferociousness as the exploding drones dive directly to bomb out secret service agents. The movie can stand on its own for adrenaline junkies and you don’t have to see the two previous editions to really appreciate it.
Butler continues to burnish his brand of movie heroism and macho posturings as the alpha male lead character who brings all the evildoers to justice. He has saved the world before and we have no doubt he can do it again, but it is Nick Nolte as the cantankerous old dad who brings gravitas and some laughs as the Vietnam War veteran. He lives like a hermit or survivalist in the woods and certainly scores points for knowing how to set off a series of bombs gleefully to get back at the henchmen who try to kill his son. Together, they turn this into a macho buddy action-comedy that has more laughs and charisma than the franchise has ever seen, especially in the end credits scene that’s really quite a kicker.