By Justin Rev Ino Tamang
London Has Fallen begins with snippets of news sound bites on various terrorist- or insurgency-related attacks. One of the last news snippets to be audible is the story of the SAF 44. The following scene takes place in Pakistan, where the son of arms dealer Aamir Barkawi returns home. They attend a wedding, which the United States government then bombs via drone strike.
The film then skips two years ahead. The United States President prepares to attend a state funeral in London. Other world leaders are set to be there, too, which is why security is tight. Despite the drastic security measures, however, a coordinated terrorist attack shocks the UK capital.
Apparently, the drone strike failed and Barkawi is still alive, although the attack did get most of his family. With the United States President being the last world leader to stay alive in London, Secret Service agent Mike Banning has to do everything to keep him safe – and save him, if things get worse.
The plot is as generic as it could get. You get to see the bad guys attempt to hostage and kill the US President, they sort of succeed, and then fails in the end. And this is all thanks to the glorious main character Secret Service agent Mike Banning – who, for the entirety of the film, sustained a single gunshot wound in the arm but killed hundreds of “terrorists.”
It even takes a page off the James Bond movie playbook where the villain talks too much to actually get any job done. By the time the bad guy’s done talking, the main character has caught up and is ready to win. Exchange of gun fire here and there, then the protagonist pulls off a crazy feat to best his enemy.
You get it. You’ve seen it before. We’ve all seen it before. There’s nothing new to see at all.
The fight scenes offer minimal redemption, as they are mediocre. The car chases are there; the explosions are there. Again, these are scenes that practically every action film has overused. Granted, these are a necessity for bringing in some excitement and visualizing conflict, but the movie has failed to execute these scenes in the best manner possible.
London Has Fallen has a highly talented cast, but they all play thankless, one-dimensional roles. It’s sad to see Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, and the other cast members portray these characters that are run-of-the-mill and stereotypical.
But what’s truly frightening about the film is the message it sends to its viewers. It’s downright racist and unapologetically xenophobic.
It affirms the idea that it is perfectly fine for the United States to launch drone strikes and military attacks, but not the other way around. US exceptionalism is at its core. The US launches a drone strike at the end of the film, this time making sure they get Barkawi. Spoiler: they do get Barkawi, but the bomb gets dropped in a rather crowded town in Yemen. Never mind the civilians; they are collateral damage.
The film even downplays the capabilities of other countries, framing the whole terrorist situation as something only the United States (AKA Banning and everyone left in the White House) can solve.
There is a scene where Banning tortures one of the terrorists by stabbing him and twisting the knife. The purpose? The Secret Service agent wants the other terrorists to hear that through their radios. The US President asked if that was necessary, and Banning replied “no.” This is how absurd the film’s view on violence is. The whole film pans out as a massive piece of propaganda intended to push the right-wing agenda on foreign policy.
London Has Fallen is just like any other action film you have seen in the past. It has the ever-invincible protagonist, the hordes of enemies that die, and the explosion-filled combat scenes. The only things it takes to the next level are xenophobia, US exceptionalism, and double standards on violence – and those are never good things.