Review: Angel Has Fallen

Score: B-

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Cast: Gerard Butler, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte, Morgan Freeman

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rated: R

It's one of the decade's greatest unsolved mysteries: Why did audiences flock to the ultra-serious Olympus Has Fallen and reject the extremely entertaining White House Down? We may never know, but the former has now spawned two sequels, both from different directors and different studios, despite poor reviews and dwindling box office. But perhaps because my expectations were so low, I found myself enjoying the pure action thriller nonsense of Angel Has Fallen.

Part of the improvement is that this franchise has finally learned to have some fun. The first film took its North Korean invasion seriously, while London Has Fallen engaged in blatant xenophobia. But this entry has thrown that all out the window and made its bad guys motivated by simple greed. It's completely improbable at every turn, and doesn't care. It's all the better for it.

Gerard Butler returns as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, protecting new president Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). On a fishing trip, a drone attack kills everyone except for Mike and Trumbull. When Mike awakes in the hospital, he's handcuffed and an FBI agent investigating the murders (Jada Pinkett Smith) accuses him of setting up the hit. The rest of the film is a pretty blatant rip-off of The Fugitive, but since that's one of my all-time favorite movies, that wasn't a problem.

Angel Has Fallen really kicks into high gear when Mike escapes federal custody and tracks down his off-the-grid father, played by Nick Nolte at his wooliest. They work on their broken relationship while blowing stuff up, which doesn't wear out its welcome. They part ways just in time for Mike to try to clear his name and for his dad to protect Mike's wife (Piper Perabo) and son.

All this leads to one of the longest shootouts I've seen in an American movie, an incredibly exciting but absurd climax that's aided by some clever editing. But then there's the movie's biggest flaw, which even mentioning is a major spoiler. Mike's old army buddy Wade was supposed to be played Holt McCallany (Mindhunter). Schedule conflicts required him to drop out, and he was replaced with Danny Huston. I've got nothing against him, but he's played the bad guy in just about everything for the last decade. He looks suspicious any time he's onscreen. So only a person who's never seen him before would be shocked by the reveal.

But that's ultimately not a deal-breaker, as this movie has plenty of insane stunts and additional twists up its sleeve. It's absolutely ridiculous from the jump, and the perfect late-summer shut-off-your-brain flick.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.