Olympus did, London too, and now Angel Has Fallen: the third film in the Gerald Butler-led action franchise continues the politically-charged “man against the world” story, and while the global threat remains, this is predominantly a character-driven piece disguised as an action-thriller. Three films into the saga that has made a name for itself by blowing up everything in sight, does this recalibration work?
When Mike Banning survives a drone attack aimed at the President of the United States, he is pursued by both the Secret Service and FBI who suspect him of planning and executing the attack himself. Bulter returns alongside Morgan Freeman, with Nick Nolte, Jada Pinkett Smith and Danny Huston joining the threequel.
While it is never a bad time for a series to try something new, Angel’s decision to position itself as a character-driven effort (at what has been long-suspected as the final hurdle) falls disappointingly flat; character work has never been high on this franchise’s agenda and the film’s three writers have little experience with this storytelling element, all having made their careers (with all due respect) in the action genre. As such, the attempts to delve deeper into Mike Banning’s backstory are incredibly shallow and fail to enhance our interest or connection to him in any way. Too little, too late springs to mind.
It’s easy to understand why Angel attempts something new though: the story itself is so formulaic and so predictable that it needed a way to distract audiences from how overly familiar this tale is. Almost entirely absent of surprise, it’s a template we have seen countless times before with nothing new brought to the table. That would be fine, in a way, because neither Olympus nor London were bursting at the seams with originality – but at least they were entertaining. This, frankly, isn’t.
Ric Roman Waugh isn’t making his directorial debut here, but there is an amateurishness to the direction that would suggest otherwise. Undoubtedly, the better genre flicks thrive by immersing you in the action, but Angel’s constantly moving camerawork conveys a restlessness and indecision; with chaotic energy to every set piece, it lacks a style or substance the film really needed to counteract the struggling character work, lower stakes and longer runtime. A handful of moments are enjoyable but they’re fleeting and frustrating in the long run.
Gerald Butler has a meatier role to work with because of the attempt to refocus his Mike Banning – but he’s always thrived better in the action set pieces and it’s clear. He’s a more convincing Mike ‘Save The World’ Banning than a Mike ‘Save Himself’ Banning. Nick Nolte certainly commits, we’ll give him that, and Jada Pinkett Smith handles a rather uninspired (and unfortunately limited) role well.
Dumb is fine when the film knows it is and ensure we’re having fun at the same time; unfortunately, Angel Has Fallen takes itself too seriously for the most part, with smaller stakes and weak character work resulting in a lame sequel and potential finale. As predictable as it is unsurprising, Angel Has Fallen takes a sharp plunge from even the most modest of heights.