In the Antoine Fuqua-directed 2013 hit Olympus Has Fallen, North Korean terrorists take over the White House and take some of its occupants hostage, including American President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). But they miss out on one crucial detail – the President’s former security guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is on the premises and he proceeds to save the day for the United States.
In Babak Najafi’s London Has Fallen, Banning is now in charge of Asher’s security arrangements. When the British Prime Minister’s sudden death requires an urgent visit to London, Banning has to cobble together a last-minute security plan. As heads of state from all over the world gather in the British capital for the funeral, a few hundred Pakistani terrorists destroy London and its major landmarks while systematically eliminating some of the world’s top leaders, but not the US President because the terrorists miss out one detail. Banning, of course.
The premise is not unlike the last season of Homeland – a First World attack on a wedding party in Pakistan that kills everyone except a handful of family members.
When the world’s top leaders converge in London, for the “most secure and guarded event in the world”, the timing is perfect for a strike.
The American President obviously flies in (the French President is sitting in a boat, the poor Japanese premier is stuck in a traffic jam) and escapes in large part owing to Banning’s quick thinking. Banning and Asher are on the run, even as the body count rises by the second. High-speed chases follow and bombs, explosions and guns go off every minute as the two Americans take on hundreds of enemies swarming every street corner.
While Olympus Has Fallen was an enjoyable action thriller with Banning single-handedly overpowering the White House infiltrators, London Has Fallen is much harder to swallow. How can such a high-profile event be marred by such a huge failure of intelligence? Why are the British portrayed as incompetent (Scotland Yard doesn’t know who among them is terrorist in disguise and whether they have a mole in the ranks)? How does Banning know exactly where to go in a city in which he does not live? Why are the Brits in the control room celebrating the American President’s escape when they have nothing to contribute to it (particularly after their iconic city has been turned to rubble)?
The action too is definitely weaker in this sequel too, which comes across as a bit of a vanity project for producer and lead actor Butler, with skimpy support coming from Morgan Freeman, Angela Basset and Eckhart. Though Butler and Eckhart share an easy chemistry, the plot is too contrived for the proceedings to be convincing. The spectacle of the White House exploding has the hint of awe to it, but the poor computer graphics in the sequel do not evoke any horror as Westminster Abbey and Chelsea Bridge are blown up.
Not surprisingly, the film leaves open the possibility of a third part. With the US Presidential elections this year, one can only imagine at least one change in the cast and the marginal curiosity as to which iconic building or city Butler will want to fell next.