Angel Has Fallen (2019)
Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs.

Release Date: August 23rd, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Ric Roman Waugh Actors: Gerard Butler, Piper Perabo, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Frederick Schmidt, Joseph Millson




arget is on the move.” Heavily outnumbered and outgunned, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) strives to exit a multi-level, bullet-riddled structure as squadrons of soldiers descend upon his position. But thanks to his skills, he’s perfectly capable of overcoming the incredible odds – or at least that’s what the overwrought editing will have audiences assume. In this opening sequence alone, the camerawork is so shaky and hard to follow that it’s impossible to know exactly what is going on.

Back in Washington D.C., Banning awaits an offer to become the Director of the Secret Service for President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). But despite his many years on the job, working to protect the President from all sorts of mayhem, Mike isn’t certain he’s ready to sit behind a desk for the rest of his career. His abuse of pills for migraines, dizziness, and insomnia doesn’t help in making the decision, though his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and their infant daughter Lynn would probably appreciate the less intensive promotion. Meanwhile, longtime friend Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), who runs a private military contractor company called Salient Global, could use Banning’s assistance in securing training deals with the U.S. Department of Defense (for which troops have been stretched thin due to so many ongoing international conflicts).

“You’re a disaster waiting to happen,” a doctor cautions Mike, whose dizzy spells only seem to afflict him during the beginning of the film, and never in the midst of an action sequence. It’s fortunate that this condition doesn’t interfere with Mike’s ability to subdue much younger, better-equipped opposition, or even the equally matched Jennings, whose shadiness right from his introduction couldn’t be more obvious. It also has no influence on his reaction time when the President’s fishing trip provides an opportunity for an assassination attempt – utilizing drones, the go-to, hi-tech weapon of modern thrillers – which is blamed on Banning after the FBI discovers some damning evidence.

“My husband is a good man.” From the dialogue to the frame-job, “Angel Has Fallen” sticks to a predictable formula, following the underdog as he’s turned into a fugitive who must solve the mystery of the attack in order to clear his name. Disappointingly, plenty of time-wasting events are chronicled, including such bland formalities as the swearing in of the Vice President (Tim Blake Nelson), the FBI’s forensic investigation and the no-nonsense Special Agent (Jada Pinkett Smith) in charge of being mean to Mike and Leah, and even the security sweeps and procedures governing the Secret Service members. It’s one man against the world, managing to elude everyone – good guys and bad guys alike – despite his age, his injuries, and his lack of sleep, food, and painkillers.

Circling back to the frenetic editing and cinematography at the start, “Angel Has Fallen” presents its most pathetic scene when Mike fights inside a car at night. It’s literally a blur of rapid cuts, various body movements, and grunts as indistinguishable punches and kicks are traded between four people. It’s all so dark and inscrutable that when Mike stumbles from the vehicle, exhausted but alone, it’s the only indication that he won. And then the film has to offer up a flashback to reiterate who one of the assailants was, since the entire moment is pure confusion.

The only redeeming factor to this intermittently action-packed yet predominantly gloomy thriller is Nick Nolte as a humorous sidekick to Mike’s low-energy rampage. Nolte lends comic relief and a hint of humanity as the picture touches upon anti-war and anti-government sentiments (as well as the sad truth of inaction toward Russia’s election meddling – something that feels awfully realistic even in a fictional President’s tenure). But if Nolte adds genuineness, the slow build to a protracted climax of excitement and chaos is entirely unbelievable. It just keeps growing sillier and more unconvincing, ending on a chain of shots that seem as if the conclusion was improvised on the spot.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10