In the past month, I have had two reviews – both of Oscar-nominated foreign-language films – published in Bmoreart, an award-winning Baltimore-based online journal: Son of Saul (the eventual Oscar winner) and A War. Enjoy!
London Has Fallen (Babak Najafi, 2016)
Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, like Die Hard‘s John McLane before him, always seems to find himself at the center of a whirlwind of violence. Just three years ago, in Olympus Has Fallen, he executed a brilliant rescue of the President of the United States – against impossible odds! – trapped in a White House under siege, and executed dozens of terrorists in the process. His methods were varied: some he shot, some he stabbed, some he manhandled to death; all deserved their fates, of course. In that film, they were North Korean, hoping to force the Americans off of their peninsula so they could reunify North and South. The movie was not ineffective, with imperfectly drawn but still interesting characters. It was nice that the screenwriters didn’t just assume that an attack on our nation’s capital would be story enough; they actually tried to create multiple layers of conflict (making it slightly better, for me, than White House Down, which was released a few months later with a very similar premise). Olympus Has Fallen was by no means a masterpiece, but it was an enjoyable enough action thriller.
And now Banning – and the President – are back. Played, again, by Gerard Butler (300) and Aaron Eckhart (Battle: Los Angeles), they seem to have nicely recovered from their ordeal of a few years prior. By the time we meet them in this new film, however, we have already seen a teaser opener in which a man who is set up as THE WORLD’S MOST EVIL TERRORIST is killed by U.S. drone. Or is he . . . ? Soon, the sudden death of the British Prime Minister draws them (and every other major power’s president and security detail) to London for the funeral, where all hell predictably breaks loose (see poster, above, as well as the first movie and/or just say the title, slowly, to yourself). Will Banning be able to save the President once more? Perhaps the bigger question should be: who/what will be the collateral damage this time?
The answer to that is: everything and everyone. Especially if they look Middle-Eastern or Pakistani, the villains in installment #2. Yes, it’s that kind of film, even though the director, Babak Najafi (Easy Money II: Hard to Kill) was born in Tehran. One would think that moving to progressive Sweden when he was 11 would have mellowed him out, or at least given him some nuanced racial perspective on the world, but one would be wrong. For nuance is a territory unknown to Mr. Najafi and his screenwriters, at least as far as this film is concerned. There’s good and evil in this world, and if one is good, then all is permitted to defeat evil, even torture. It’s not that I think that terrorist acts should be tolerated or terrorists allowed to go free, but in the worldview here on display – via a raging Banning – the killing of foreign-accented brown people is not just a survival tactic, but something to be celebrated. After one particularly gruesome death-by-knife-twist, played to the max for the victim’s brother (listening in on a cell phone), the President turns to Banning and croaks, “Was that absolutely necessary?” Banning replies, gleefully, “No!” And that’s all you need to know. Dick Cheney and Donald Trump would love it.