Kendra Sitton | Uptown News
“Angel Has Fallen” is the sexist movie I’ve seen in a while. The only female character that lives till the end has ostensibly given up her career to be a housewife, which is of course fine, but in a movie full of combat, she exists solely to be saved by these testosterone-fueled gladiators. Leah Banning is played by Piper Perabo who has shown she can play a cunning spy, but here she is reduced to being someone else’s ball and chain, keeping Mike Banning (played by Gerard Butler) from staying in the field where his failing health and addiction to painkillers alone should disqualify him from his role in the Secret Service. While Butler escapes capture twice and blows up the people trying to frame him for an assassination attempt on the president, Perabo is limited to fearfully clutching her baby and apparently forgetting to lock the back door in the midst of receiving death threats.
The fact that the president’s entire cabinet and nearly every secret service agent is male in addition to the all-male military contractors cannot be ignored. While it may be an accurate depiction of how few women are in those career fields, it certainly isn’t a movie that challenges what you think. In fact, the movie reads like a two-hour commercial for the male ego.
The cast is not entirely made up of men of course. There’s the group of reporters invading the Bannings’ privacy and an FBI agent, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, who survives most of the movie. Unlike so many of the deaths which are filmed with relish, Pinkett-Smith’s Agent Thompson is shot off screen. However, she is carelessly left to the side — as so many female characters are — to slowly bleed out on the tarmac as my own hopes this movie could be salvaged bled out as well.
Butler is not a talented enough actor to portray Bannings’ changing emotional core as he reconciled with his father. His motivations are narrated by Morgan Freeman and Danny Huston, who respond to some imperceptible change in Butler’s face as he considers leaving active duty for a desk job that would keep him home with his wife and child (and doctors!).
The predictable plot of this sequel to “London Has Fallen” was so lethargically executed that only the shaking 4DX chairs at Regal Edwards Mira Mesa during the plethora of fight scenes kept me from drifting off.
I was still awake enough to roll my eyes at some of the more ridiculous moments, like when Butler casually drops his machine gun with no explanation so that he can fight with a handgun and then eventually a knife and then with his own hands against Danny Huston’s military contractor Wade Jennings.
The former military comrades played by Butler and Huston are repeatedly shown to be more the same than different, even as they end up on opposite sides of trying to kill the president. Huston says they are lions over and over, that they need the adrenaline-rush of fighting in order to have a reason to live. This could be an interesting look at the difficulty of veterans to reintegrate into civilian life but his dissatisfaction with retirement is instead the flimsy reason he betrays the country he once fought for.
Butler’s Banning betrays his country in his own way by hiding his medical and addiction issues while being considered for Secret Service Director. Butler’s ego also convinces him he alone is the only one who can save the president, so he must break into the hospital where Morgan Freeman’s President Trumbull is recovering from the first assassination attempt. Rather than alerting the Secret Service, Banning must break behind the lines of the service to show them how weak they are and earn back his role as their leader, just a day after he was suspected of masterminding the murder attempt.
“Angel Has Fallen” is the sequel to “London Has Fallen,” in which Butler, the guardian angel, protected the world leaders from a terror attack in London. I would like to think the sequel’s title refers to the original fallen angel, who thought he was better than God. Butler seems to share the same pride that cost the devil heaven. As the Executive Producer of this action flick, he has managed to reimagine an ending to that ancient story where Freeman, who has played God so many times in other movies, honors Butler’s character for his self-assured assessment he is the only one who could conquer this Kobayashi Maru.
It is Huston’s ego that turns him into a presidential assassin, and it is Butler’s ego that makes him save the president.
A better movie would have dismantled the ego that so drives these main characters to forego their own health, the own wisdom, their own country in order to advance their careers and get an opportunity to fight again. Instead, their reminiscent violent is respected, celebrated, reinforced, and in Butler’s case, awarded with one of the top jobs in the U.S.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at [email protected]. Uptown News is a San Diego Community Newspaper Group publication.