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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blu-ray Review: #LondonHasFallen

London Has Fallen is pure mayhem that doesn't care what you think.

Review by Matt Cummings

Just about everything falls in London Has Fallen, including some of England's most iconic scenery; but that shouldn't keep you from checking out this brisk, well-paced action flick that probably hits a little too close to home in terms of its believability. The home release looks and sounds great, but its supplements are severely lacking.

The Movie - 3.5/5
When the British Prime Minister suddenly dies while recovering from surgery, the world's leaders rush to gather and pay their respects. For President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckart), it's his duty to attend such functions; but for his Secret Service bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the dangers of showing up with such little planning represent an immediate danger that he cannot prevent. True to form, the entire event has been orchestrated by a weapons supplier who watched his family die when the G8 made his house disappear years before. When his plan of terror begins to unfold throughout London, Asher and Banning get caught in the middle of an elaborate plan to whack every one of those leaders. As the Secret Service Director (Angela Bassett), the nation's top general (Robert Forster), and the Seaker-of-the-House turned Vice-President (Morgan Freeman) work together to keep Asher safe, Banning must ferry the president block-by-block to the US Embassy, while the bad guys pursue them to see Asher executed over social media.

For 99 minutes, London Has Fallen blasts its audience with a combination of action porn and in-your-face messaging about America being the stronger nation than any terrorist cell. The latter is particularly evident in the film's climax, as Butler puts a whooping on their leader while yelling, "America will be here 1,000 from now!" If you can balance that sort of on-the-nose patriotism with some genuinely good action and surprising story twists, London probably won't bore you. Director Babak Najafi takes over for Antoine Fuqua, managing to maintain a frantic pace that honestly doesn't need two hours to tell its story. People and things get attacked. We fight back. Butler rails off some good one-liners. Done.

A team of writers led by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt (who penned Olympus Has Fallen) are joined by Christian Gudegast and Chad St. John. With that many hands in the cookie jar, one would think London might get convoluted; luckily, the film maintains its core message about survival in the face of a well-planned siege. But don't get me wrong, we're not talking Oscar-caliber acting or stunts here. London Has Fallen is here to entertain, even though some might not like just how likely an attack like this could be possible.

I've always said that Butler is an action star waiting for the right vehicle. Based on the success of Olympus, I was hoping we would see him step into Stallone's shoes long ago, and that London would be our celebration of his long-awaited return to the franchise. And while that new role still eludes him, it doesn't mean we can't enjoy him in his element. He enjoys a witty banter with Eckhart, who too is still looking for direction after The Dark Knight. Adding Freeman and Bassett is almost not enough to keep Butler and Eckhart from enjoying great buddy-cop chemistry that never feels cheesy (a lot). it's one reason why Olympus was so stunningly good, and what helps to keep London Has Fallen from falling into VOD-land.

The Video - 4/5
London Has Fallen sports a solid MPEG-4 AVC transfer that might seem a bit pedestrian at first glance. As I've mentioned before, Universal treats all of its films with equal respect, even a film which doesn't need stunning clarity to rule the day. It's all business here, and the result is pleasing. Where London excels is in its second half, which takes place in darker locations. Some releases would see shadows swallowing up light fairly fast, but not here. Details remain in everything from skin to clothing, and outdoor day scenes look impressively sharp. We can see chunks of concrete in the streets and even spent bullet casings. Color is well-balanced throughout, although I did notice some very minor banding in early scenes. This transfer gets the job done and leaves little to criticize.

The Audio - 5/5
If you take issue with London Has Fallen's video, no such criticism exists with its thunderous DTS:X and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 transfer. I played my review on a 5.1 setup, which tends to squeeze the 7.1 down in a louder soundtrack, and here my ears were treated to a spectacle. For a film like this, you want to feel immersed in the action, and Universal definitely delivers. Bulets and explosions rock throughout, generating noise in both the forwards and rears. piercing highs to thunderous lows. Gunfire rips through the stage, emanating literally from every corner on a few occasions. At many points, you'll feel that the gun battles might be happening right inside your home, which has become a trademark Universal trait since I first reviewed their Bourne Identity trilogy. If you love what surrounds bring to the experience, you'll like the opening which features a mix of children playing, birds and many other atmospherics. But it's the LFE which rules this track, bumping, thumping, blasting, and pounding Mike Banning's one man battle with perfection. Dialogue is also well prioritized in the center, creating yet another terrific experience for the listener.

The Supplements - 1.5/5
If Universal excels at audio and video, it has been recently dropping the ball on its supplements. London Has Fallen contains the barest of supplements, with just two EPX-style featurettes.

  • The Making of London Has Fallen (13:16): The cast and crew discuss making a sequel, the plot, Najafi's direction, and the impressive cast.
  • Guns, Knives & Explosives (7:42): Another standard EPX, this one details the various action scenes.
  • Our evaluation copy contains a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, which includes a voucher for a UV/iTunes digital copy. The slipcase is embossed and colorful, but there is no interior artwork. At this time, we were unaware of any special versions (packaging or features).

    The Bottom Line - 4/5
    Some unenlightened critics have already dismissed London Has Fallen because it hits a little too close to home, cheapening the real possibility that our world leaders could be taken down if the right circumstances were in play. If you're willing to think that deep, then London isn't for you. And while it lacks some of the over-the-top action of the original, it's still far better than White House Down, which people usually confuse with this series. Perhaps that's the bigger problem here, but you won't care as you enjoy the cacophony of explosions, witty repartee, and solid performances from its leads. Any deeper analysis is ill-advised. The home release succeeds and fails, with excellent video/audio but no commentary and the barest of supplements. I might wait for this one to go super cheap unless you like the slipcover and can't wait to see Butler do what he does best.

    London Has Fallen is Rated R for strong violence and language throughout and has a runtime of 99 minutes.

    Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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