London Has Fallen review

Who would seriously want the job of President of the United States of America? It seems that as soon as you take office, every terrorist and nutjob on the planet wants to kill you. (Still, if the next US president actually turns out to be Donald Trump, the civilised world might be cheering them on.)

In 2013's Olympus Has Fallen, Korean terrorists attack Washington and take control of the White House, threatening to kill President Asher (Eckhart) unless their demands are met. Luckily, gung-ho former secret service agent Mike Banning (Butler) just happens to be visiting and manages to save the day – using a great deal of violence and an awful lot of bad language. Three years on, Banning is still the president's personal bodyguard and he accompanies the commander-in-chief when he has to travel to London for the funeral of the recently deceased prime minister. But as the funeral begins at St Paul's Cathedral, all hell breaks loose – terrorists launch an attack, destroying a few major landmarks and killing a few world leaders. Their aim is to capture President Asher and behead him live on the internet to a global audience of billions.

The terrorists' plan is actually a well-organised revenge plot by Pakistani arms dealer Aamir Barkawi (Aboutboul) – a US drone strike a few years before during his daughter’s wedding wiped out his family. And a very well-organised (and well financed) plot it it, too. And quite logical and plausible. Terrorists have infiltrated the armed, emergency and security services – even the Queen’s Guard – and launch their attack from within. Now many will say that such a plan is implausible, but just remember how well-organised and executed the terrorist attack on New York's Twin Towers was. London Has Fallen makes 9/11 look like a tea party. The good news, though, is that Boris Johnson's Cycle Superhighway escapes unscathed.

London goes into lockdown – the public are warned to stay off the streets thanks to a blast on the WW2 air-raid sirens (do those things still work?) – and Banning and Asher have to fight their way to an MI-6 safe house and then make their way back to Stansted airport and Air Force One. Banning, of course, assumes that “every single one of these guys is a terrorist asshole until proven otherwise”, so he's happy to aim his machine gun at anything that moves. As the body count rises, you do have to wonder (as one does so often in these kinds of films) why the bad guys are always such rotten shots and never manage to score a direct hit on Banning or Asher (although Banning does suffer a slight flesh wound to his upper left arm that probably required the application of a Band-Aid).

It's by-the-numbers, to be sure, and lacks the humour that was so prevalent in Olympus Has Fallen. Some of the CGI effects are a bit ropy, and venerable costars such as Freeman, Leo and Bassett are criminally underused. And a lot of people (well, a lot of Brits) will find the plot a little on the offensive side. And it does focus all-too briefly on the aftermath of the attack on London, and its impact on the city and its citizens – the focus is all on saving the President of the Free World! But it's a decently made, plausible action film with some terrific set pieces and lots of violence and swearing for those who enjoy their action films with an adult edge to them. It's silly in the extreme, but hugely entertaining – although you may well find yourself spending more time laughing at it than with it.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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