As the third movie in the franchise, there was a specific burden on “Angel Has Fallen” to whit it’s a franchise tiebreaker. Mike Banning’s strike rate was balanced on a knife-edge: on one side, the solidly entertaining “Olympus Has Fallen”. On the other, the egregious shit show that is “London Has Fallen”. Good news, then, that fortune is on the side of the angels because this third instalment is something of a return to form.
Having served faithfully on the secret service protection squad of two Presidents, when an attack takes out his whole team and puts the President in a coma, Mike Banning is disturbed to discover he is the chief suspect. With time running out as international tensions rise, Banning must evade his own agency and the FBI while trying to track down the real culprits.
It’s something of a well-worn trope to have a hero be framed for a crime he didn’t commit and have to go on the run from his former allies, with “Taken 3” being the most recent example that springs to mind and while “Angel Has Fallen” might not be original, or even in unpredictable in the slightest, it does at least attempt to freshen its approach to the gung-ho action by attempting – at least at the beginning – to humanise Banning just a little bit.
When we reacquaint ourselves with Mike, he’s a mess. Popping painkillers and suffering migraines (although those migraines may very well be due to the headache-inducing and epilepsy-risking direction of Ric Roman Waugh). It’s a fragility and vulnerability which should raise the stakes for the action to come, or at least it would do if Banning’s health problems continued once the relentless action begins in earnest, much like Bruce Wayne’s magic knee brace in “The Dark Knight Rises”. It’s almost as if the subplot about health issues and the toll his previous adventures have taken was added during reshoots, which would also explain his decidedly doughy appearance in the early pre-crisis scenes compared to the rest of the film.
In the end, “Angel Has Fallen” may stumble due to its sluggish pacing, patchy special effects and deeply muddled high-calibre shoot-‘em-up approach to delivering its anti-war message but it never actually falls thanks to the innately gruff, solid likability of Gerard Butler and fun cameos from Nick Nolte and Morgan Freeman. It may overestimate how much esteem Mike Bannon is held in by audiences – he’s no John McClane or even Bryan Mills – but he’s the best this kind of action cinema has these days.