Well, Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart) has gone through two terms as President. That, or he decided to let Vice President Alan Trunbull (Morgan Freeman) take his place in the primaries, and he won. It’s been three years since the last movie with Mike Banning (the one and only Gerard Butler) and back then his wife Leah (played by Piper Perabo, replacing Radha Mitchell) was pregnant with a daughter. That daughter is now getting very big, so I guess the time stamp between movie universe and real universe is tangent. We begin seeing Mike on some kind of rescue mission against a squadron of well-armed men...who are dressed similar to him and when one falls down the stairs, Mike doesn’t shoot him. Turns out it’s really a very realistic training simulation. There was a helicopter and everything. Trunbull asks Mike in the Oval Office one day if he wanted to be the new Secret Service director. Mike accepts the offer, but his tone and breathing allow Trunbull to read him like a book. Mike’s clearly unsure. That, or he for once doesn’t feel like he can handle the pressure. Yes, he’s gotten through several terrorist plottings and averted them...but his toll is being bruised by post-traumatic stress. Trunbull decides to let Mike think about it for a while, at a little weekend trip the President and his team take to a lake to go fishing. Enter a predicted but rather nasty attack that is so lethal yet easy, it may be scary how some might get ideas. The president is in a coma and Mike is the only witness both conscious and alive of the attack. A snotty FBI agent played by Jada Pinkett Smith and her team manage to get proof that it wasn’t either a coincidence or A-grade field training that Mike managed to survive. When a drone saw Mike in the face recognition software, it ignored him. Now Mike is under arrest, blamed for the drone strike and given a very punishing prison sentence. But Mike has other plans...
The last “has Fallen” movie was London has Fallen, and my grade at the time was an A- like this one, but now I think it’s more of a B or B-. I still think its fight choreography is splendid with a good antagonist, but a lot of other critics were talking about its xenophobia and it was a really bad time in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to display stereotypes of Middle Eastern countries. It’s true, there are movies like Peppermint where I’ve liked them despite painting some bad depictions of Latinos. It at least had the decency to display some very nice ones too, like women working for the lord who clearly didn’t want to be there, and some innocent sweet little kids. But yeah, London has Fallen displayed unwelcome xenophobia. Whereas with the concentration camps still shrouded in mystery and the brutality beyond description of Kim Jong-Un, the North Koreans as the bad guys was kind of warranted in the first outing. I’m glad I don’t have to talk about any of that here. Angel has Fallen takes a clever approach to avoid the third-chapter sequelitis plague, making the enemies other North Americans. There’s also talks about Russians being behind this, and because of their interference in the U.S. elections from 2016 and now...yeah, this was a good political choice in their movie, especially with almost every major attack on U.S. soil a white supremacist everyday American. When Mike is on the run, he is even confronted by local bystanders with both assault weapons and a nose for a good payday, who are both white and clearly unsavory. One of the antagonists in this film takes the event of the drone strike as a despicable advantage, and even if it was fictional, it was satisfying to watch it get wrecked, because of how relatably inexcusable the people this antagonist depicts really are. Hopefully we see this same thing happen in sixteen months or less.
Mike Banning was very disadvantaged as the only one left in a White House overtaken by about 25 well-armed North Koreans in Olympus has Fallen, my favourite of the franchise by far. Here he’s even more disadvantaged, in enemy territory he can’t escape by sneaking out the front door and aborting the mission if he felt he needed to. He’s on enemy land, with no money, no food, no backup plan, and just a little bit of ammunition, the knowledge of how the army operates, and the knowledge the army knows of his knowledge of how they operate. He reminded me of a military-trained Richard Kimble. I really enjoy a good fugitive movie, and this one adds something extra within, introducing probably the most layered character in the franchise so far (the rest of this paragraph has spoilers), Clay Banning, Mike’s father, a Vietnam-war-veteran who went through an intense amount of PTSD and was unable to give his son a proper childhood with him. Nick Nolte and Gerard Butler have perfect chemistry, Nolte both as relentlessly likeable and extreme as always. Also, with Banning noticeably a little more vulnerable in this entry, not because he’s a fugitive (well, that does add to it), but he’s also tired of all he’s had to go through. This makes him a more relatable hero than he used to be.
When we figure out the rundown of Banning having to run from the law, we realize exactly how the movie is supposed to end. But the movie’s basic formula always gives plenty of chances to add seasoning of its own; heart, tough decisions, actors who give performances that make us forget we’re watching a movie with a conventional storyline, and action scenes with a few fake-outs and secret passageways to surprise us. Angel has Fallen did a great job on all of these, creating a worthy third entry into the never-ending pain that is the life of Michael Jameson Banning.