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Towards the end of Angel Has Fallen, Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) lays out his ambition to “make America strong again”, in what appears to be a deliberate parallel to Trump. Does this make his orchestration of the rightful President’s attempted assassination (played effortlessly by Morgan Freeman) some kind of elaborate, subtle metaphor for the Trump campaign? A character using underhand tactics to gain power for himself, and taking on the presidential role after an African-American president, does parallel Trump. Perhaps this film is making a subtle suggestion that the presidency does not belong to Trump anymore than it does to the machiavellian Kirby*. Or, perhaps this reference was an attempt to remind viewers that this film was released in 2019 and not 2009. Such a reminder is desperately needed.
Everything about this film feels dated and behind the times. This is a very noughties movie released four months before 2020. Gerard Butler is in the lead role, for a start. Twice, the film uses the unoriginal trope of extremely bright lighting, muffled voices and piercing, high pitched noise to suggest a character’s disorientation. “I-Raq” is mentioned. Butler’s Mike Banning tells the villain that “‘I’ll find you” in a phone call exchange, which is taken straight from a noughties Liam Neeson movie. The president is an African-American, which was the case ten years ago. Despite this, there is a lack of diversity in this film too. Most of the cast is comprised of white male actors, as if all the efforts for greater representation in Hollywood have not happened yet. Finally, the film is filled with shots of the villains, who are chasing the protagonist, staring at computer screens in offices. This film feels like a Bourne knockoff. Why are the villains not using social media or any up to date technology, such as drones, to catch Mike? This film must have been made in 2009, before social media really became a thing.
This film is also too reliant on established tropes; everything that will happen is as easy to spot as the attack drones at the beginning of the film. The master mind behind the attempt on President Trumbull’s life talks to his henchmen through a voice modulator distorting his voice. Wade is played by Danny Huston, who has never played a trustworthy character in his career, so his shock betrayal is hardly that surprising. The twist that the Vice President is the one behind the scheme is the worst offender though- was anyone surprised by that? You could guess everything that happens in this film right at the start.
The same goes for the action too. The gun combat and the fight choreography feels procedural and routine. Perhaps the director just told Butler to hit people and point guns, and Butler sleepwalked through it all, knowing exactly what to do automatically. Mandatory explosions make an appearance too, and they do not have any impact at all. An early chase sequence involving a truck and police cars is so slow paced that it serves as an unintentional metaphor for how this film is behind the times. The truck hardly seems to be moving at all. You do not get the sense Mike is in a high speed pursuit, trying to run for his life. The score is bland and unremarkable, which makes the action on screen even less exciting. The truck flips over at one point, in an attempt to thrill the audience, but The Dark Knight already did that, and better, way back in 2008. Perhaps the truck flipped over in 2009, and never made it into this decade.
Despite feeling dated, this film was still enjoyable. Morgan Freeman brings a smooth, effortless and cool vibe to his role. Butler is serviceable enough as Mike Banning. He works hard enough to keep you entertained, even if his character will not capture the public imagination in the same manner as John Wick. The action and fighting may feel formulaic and lack the ability to truly thrill, but it is entertaining enough. It may be an uninspired film, but it is not a bad film.
It is filled with overused tropes, the action and choreography do not feel current nor fresh, and everything about the plot screams the noughties. Yet, it was entertaining enough that the film did not drag. The one hour and fifty minute run time went quite quickly, in fact. Further, this film also created a sense of nostalgia. This was likely unintentional, but the feeling is there. It feels like a 2009 B-film action movie. If you enjoy those films, and miss them, then this is the film for you. Just do not expect anything fresh.
*This would come with a spoiler warning if the twist were not so easy to guess. It took less than half an hour for it to become obvious.