I’m not sure we needed three “Fallen” movies.
The first film was rote to begin with, filled to the brim with cheesy fodder shots like the American flag getting peppered with bullet holes (this one has a quick and deliberate George Washington portrait focus during a particularly nefarious moment) and network TV-quality noir melodies during downtime. But it also had a certain “reverse John McClane” charm to it, with Butler essentially breaking into a building (in this case, the White House) to save some hostages: you can see where it would fit in the whole “campy disaster flick” web of a universe. Then the second film came and kind of dumped all over that legacy. Angel Has Fallen. The third doesn’t fare much better.
Three movies: three different directors. We’ve fallen so far from the team led by the prestigious Antoine Fuqua, which still couldn’t muster anything above popcorn-level drama. This time around, to say Angel is Fallen director Ric Roman Waugh is unproven is an understatement. His resume mostly consists of direct-to-video-esque action projects, with a few glimpses of hope peppered in. That fatigue extends to the film itself. One of the only impressive action pieces is the multi-drone strike near the start, as total darkness descends into many scenes that follow without sufficient enough lightning to make up for the shaky cam.
The story is also well-worn territory: Angel has already been disgraced in the original film after an event 10 minutes into it. The whole Ethan Hunt super soldier fugitive angle significantly ramps his disgrace up, but our hero, framed secret service agent Mike Banning (and by extension star Gerard Butler), aren’t exciting enough to get us through the finish line. From a popcorn perspective, the second film dialled-up the action by bringing things to a more global front, but Angel Has Fallen hinges a lot of its emotional attachment to your investment of the characters.
There are bright spots, as I was invested in one person: Nick Nolte, who pretty much plays “crazy old woodsman with heart, Nick Nolte.” There are moments in the film that show Angel’s potential, but those are fleeting, and the pacing snaps back to its comfortable autopilot setting in no time. We’ve also officially upgraded from Aaron Eckhart to Morgan Freeman: the latter of whom is done playing “acting president” and takes the commander-in-chief chair he was owed.
There are a few chuckle-worthy series callbacks (Freeman’s character finally gets to take that fishing trip, which was a throwaway line in the second entry)! There’s some tension, especially toward the end, and in regard to how Mike is going to get out of increasingly sticky jams. I can even appreciate how Angel shirks the whole generic “foreign terrorist” plot for something more clandestine, even if the villains are easier to sniff out than a Scooby-Doo episode.
Despite a few valiant efforts from a few cast members, the franchise has fallen and depending on the box office success of Angel, we might not get any more Mike Banning antics. But given that pretty much any actor — up and coming or veteran — is capable of filling those shoes, it’s an acceptable loss.