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Monday, March 14, 2016

London Has Fallen 2016: Popcorn Revenge against Terrorists

"London Has Fallen" is anti-Muslim revenge porn. The words "Muslim," "Islam" and "Allah" are, I think, never once mentioned in the film. Given world events, it's entirely understandable that a studio would want to make, and viewers would enjoy seeing, such a film. Many reviewers have questioned the wisdom of releasing this film. Wise? No. Entertaining and timely? Alas, yes.

Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) must protect American President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) at a state funeral in London. Many world leaders are there, including Germany's Chancellor Bruckner, who is played by Nancy Baldwin made to look as much like current German Chancellor Angela Merkel as possible.

A little girl approaches Bruckner with a flower; security pushes the girl back. Bruckner urges the girl forward. We get the message. Bruckner is ignoring necessary security protocols. She is putting herself at risk.

It doesn't take long for the risk to materialize. Bruckner is murdered. The white rose the girl had handed her is stained with red blood.

In short order, almost all of the heads of state visiting London for the funeral have been shot to death, blown up, or crushed in a spectacular series of explosions and mass assassinations. Blood spatters on white shirts. Flames billow. Bridges collapse. Missiles fly from rooftops. Helicopters crash. Sirens sound. Men in funeral dress shoes outrun armed assassins on motorcycles. Knives and shrapnel plunge into flesh.

"London Has Fallen" gives England its own 9-11. London's towers, like the WTC, are blown up on camera.

Back in the US, Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) watches from a situation room, jam packed with good actors no doubt wishing they were somewhere else, yet eager to cash their paychecks. Jackie Earle Haley is there, looking overwhelmed and sad. Melissa Leo is onscreen for mere seconds. She may have won an Academy Award, but she is still a woman over fifty. There is also a gentleman listed in the credits as Stern-faced advisor (Stacey Shane).

Eventually it comes out that the attack on London is – surprise surprise – a terrorist action carried out by the Pakistani Aamir Barkawi. His daughter was killed in a US drone strike that was intended for him. Barkawi has, with his ample petrodollars, bought off every other person in London. His terrorists have penetrated the Queen's Guard, those guys with the tall, black fur hats and red coats, the police, emergency response personnel, and apparently every motorcycle rider in England.

Barkawi's ultimate goal: assassinate US President Asher on YouTube and stream the assassination live. Obviously this atrocity is inspired by contemporary terrorists.

Banning and Asher run, run, run. Terrorists chase, chase, chase. Banning is superhuman. You get it, after a while, that for all its political and topical trappings, "London Has Fallen" is really just a video game. Banning faces off with endless supplies of armed terrorists. They fire at him directly and somehow he never gets shot, even while he manages to kill every terrorist he wants to, sometimes with only a knife.

In one scene, Banning is talking to one of the chief terrorists on the telephone. Listen to this, he says. He places the phone near the mouth of another terrorist he is stabbing to death. The man groans into the phone as he dies. "Was that necessary?" President Asher asks. "No," Banning says.

There are many such scenes, where the American good guy gets to beat up on the terrorist bad guy.

Showing images of London's landmarks spectacularly succumbing to terrorist bombs strikes me as visual incitement. Why give these monsters ideas?

Even so, I enjoyed the movie because there really was no risk involved. The movie doesn't get you to care about any of its victims. Angela Basset, one of my favorite actresses, is not treated well by the film, and her fate left me utterly uncaring. It was all so cartoonish. I liked the spectacular visuals of London's landmarks and the silly, faux serious tone of the film. I actually laughed out loud more than once.

Fun and popcorn. But the heavy themes are there. "London Is Falling" tells you that Europe has been penetrated by terrorists, their bought-off allies and enablers. It tells you that Europe can't defend itself against this onslaught. It tells you that London is really Londonistan. It tells you that Germany's woman chancellor is especially guilty. It tells you that YouTube can be used to advance terror. It tells you that Americans must save the day. However you feel about these statements, even popcorn entertainment is now communicating them. 

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