Angel Has Fallen Is Too Stupid to Carry Out its Mission as a Thriller

Mike Banning is President Trumbull's (Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman) human shield, so killing the guy would only put Mike out of work, right?
Mike Banning is President Trumbull's (Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman) human shield, so killing the guy would only put Mike out of work, right? JACK ENGLISH

Angel Has Fallen

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Written by Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook, Ric Roman Waugh, Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. Starring Gerard Butler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Piper Perabo and Morgan Freeman. Now playing.

Good news, everyone! Angel Has Fallen — the uncalled-for threequel to the Nuremberg rallies that are Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen — isn't as overtly, obnoxiously rah-rah pro-America propaganda as its predecessors. Instead, it's mostly just a sad retread of The Fugitive — also utterly uncalled for — that is dumb, pointless and laughably unable to convince us that Gerard Butler is an acceptable stand-in for Harrison Ford for us to empathize with, worry about and/or thirst after. Perhaps even worse, Angel has Jada Pinkett Smith (!) as the FBI agent after fugitive Butler, and while she has the potential to be a Tommy Lee Jones-level, no-fucks-given badass antagonist here, the movie has no interest in that.

This time around, Butler's Secret Service agent, Mike Banning, is framed for an assassination attempt on President (again) Morgan Freeman and has to go on the run in order to prove his innocence and find the real miscreants, who are entirely obvious from their first seconds onscreen. I won't spoil it, but if you cannot immediately pick out the Bad Guys "hidden" among everyone else, you are even stupider than this movie hopes you are. Yes, I am saying it: Angel Has Fallen is the sort of movie that is, to all appearances, designed to make stupid people feel smart, by "letting" you figure out whodunit while acting like there's any mystery at all. Angel Has Fallen may avoid the worst of the jingoism this time, but it has no problem with flattering an audience that it presumes is imbecilic.

In case you don't understand who the "angel" is who has "fallen" here, an ostensible news report in voiceover will explain that on-the-run Banning is the president's disgraced "guardian angel," a designation never previously heard in reference to the Secret Service, but whatevs; let's justify the movie's title. Also there are characters telling Banning — and, by extension, us — that "looks can be deceiving" and "I just don't know who to trust anymore" to prime you for looks being deceptive, even though they aren't, and not knowing who to trust, even though you can instantly tell who not to trust.

There could have been a bit of suspense and surprise if the movie even went through the motions of pretending that maybe Mike Banning might have been trying to take out the American president, because we all know that that could be a thing these days. Mike Banning, so virtuous and stolid! He could have a legitimately honorable reason for — ahem! — wanting to take out the supposed leader of the free world. But nope. It's all a completely transparent setup, and President Morgan Freeman can today only be seen as a throwback to a more dignified time of, say, three years ago, his stateliness and, you know, ability to host a coherent press conference reminders of a saner world, when it would have been almost unthinkable for someone to want to take out a president over mere political disagreement.

But yeah, Angel Has Fallen is the sort of movie in which everything is precisely what it seems to be, even when that makes literally no sense whatsoever. There's a deeply bizarre scene here in which the newly on-the-run Mike is confronted by (white male) members of the "Pine Mountain Militia," eager to citizen's arrest him for the attempted assassination of (checks notes) a black U.S. president who wants to cut off the gravy train that private military contractors have enjoyed in the 21st century. In the real world — our world, and the one this movie thinks it exists in — these ammosexual assholes would much more likely want to help fugitive Mike for, as far they know, trying to kill a pacifistic probably-Kenyan-born illegitimate president. Instead they want to apprehend him?

The levels of political and cultural cluelessness of this movie are appalling. The horrific body count among the anonymous cops and other law enforcement figures who respond during Angel's many action sequences appalls even me. I may be very much all "fuck the police" these days, but I remember when there was a basic level of respect for the ordinary Joe and Jane in uniform. However unwarranted that may have been, this movie hasn't the first clue about why that might be or why it has been lost. Angel somehow manages to be both pro-authoritarian and anti-authoritarian at the same time. As someone wise I know likes to say, "Piss or get off the pot."

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