There’s something rotten at the very core of London Has Fallen (though the film is separately, cinematically rancid from top to bottom). That something is beyond its blatant lack of concern for anything and anyone non-American (be it imperilled landmarks or perfunctory Brits, like ones played by Charlotte Riley or Colin Salmon) in the plot of a movie about a devastating terror attack on non-American soil.
It’s beyond the toxic idiocy and incomprehensibility of the script, a truly godawful piece of work inexplicably written by four people (Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Chad St. John, and Christian Gudegast) that makes the plots of iOS-only Call of Duty knock-offs look like The Hurt Locker.
It’s beyond director Najafi’s inexplicable inability to achieve a single moment of real tension in the entire movie, even amid the chaos of Banning and Asher’s flight through London, or Butler and Eckhart’s failure to sell their characters as anything more than gun-loving automatons.
It’s even beyond the film’s sourly militaristic brand of nationalism, which equates Banning’s rampage through an enemy-occupied London as a patriotic journey all the more heroic for the high body count it builds, and the insulting way in which it reduces women to one-dimensional catalysts for the leads to descend fully into macho madness.
No, what’s most pervasively rotten about London Has Fallen is how it exploits our society’s fears about mass shootings, terrorist takeovers, and random acts of violence to simultaneously dress up an irredeemably dreadful action movie narrative and mount a paranoid defense of America’s military strategy.
It’s traumatic to watch the movie’s nefarious militants suddenly open fire on an unsuspecting crowd of British citizens, felling some of them immediately and others very slowly – but the moment, dragged out, just exists to feed audiences’ appetites for destruction, and it’s played as such. Likewise, when Banning tortures then brutally murders his downed enemies, scenes that should horrify us are served up like delicious, invigorating tidbits worthy of spontaneous applause, moments that affirm Banning’s patriotism above all else.
This movie is downright vile in its constant glorification of violence, and wrong-headed in how it tries to make audiences view America as an innocent victim of its own ambitions to “engage in the world,” entirely virtuous in its imperialistic military operations abroad and always justified in making hell rain down upon those would oppose its supremacy.
To put it another way, London Has Fallen wants us to think we’re still John McClane. Even today, Hollywood is trying to paint the United States as some scrappy, outnumbered, outgunned underdog bringing the fight to foreign oppressors – instead of a powerful world leader that should wield its military might with restraint and responsibility.
These kinds of narratives aren’t just patently false – they’re harmful, encouraging the very worst instincts of the American national psyche. London Has Fallen wants us to fear the world, to hate the “other,” to applaud the wanton slaughter of our enemies, and to absolve ourselves of any wrongdoing in pushing toward their destruction – because, after all, even in a movie that opens with an American drone pilot blitzing the hell out of a wedding ceremony, they (North Koreans in Olympus, Middle Easterners in London, who the fuck knows in the sickening inevitable threequel) are always the ones who started it. That’s not patriotic – it’s sociopathic.
Don’t go see London Has Fallen. It’s a corrosive acid spill of a movie. In its poisonous mind, it wants audiences to not just anticipate the next terror attack but actually hunger for what such an attack would represent: the opportunity to take up arms and annihilate all foreigners without a modicum of guilt. It sexualizes vengeance and stages each moment of bloodshed as an orgasmic release of pent-up macho virility. Furthermore, it attempts to justify America’s current military strategies without critically examining them, and shame anyone who would demand such an analysis.
Organizations like ISIS aim to divide the countries they target, to turn their inhabitants into terrified savages too concerned with self-preservation to consider looking beyond their immediate surroundings. They aim to make us scared of each other and quicker to pull the trigger than to form potential alliances that could strengthen us. And for all its hoo-hah ultraviolence in the name of the stars and stripes, London Has Fallen plays right into their hands.
Crude and cruel in the extreme, London Has Fallen is jingoistic propaganda for the era of global terror, a toxic cocktail of mind-numbing action and miasmic xenophobia that should be swiftly disavowed by all involved.