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Movie Review

Most Americans might enjoy a trip to London. Not Mike Banning.

First off, Mike's wife is, like, 13 months pregnant. Leah could give birth at any nanosecond now, and Mike would sure like to be on hand to welcome their child—a daughter, judging by the paint in the nursery room—into the world.

Secondly, he's been to London before. Plenty of times, really, on business. And his gig doesn't give him much time for sightseeing. As a Secret Service agent tasked with protecting the president of the United States, he's way too busy scanning rooftops for snipers and glowering across rope lines to hop on a double-decker tour bus.

But, alas, he can't just tell President Asher to take care of himself for once—or, better yet, tell America's head honcho to just stay home. Great Britain's prime minister just died—quietly in his sleep, it's said—and most of the world's leaders will be on hand to pay their due respects. Asher would be missed. Asher knows it. Mike knows it.

Unfortunately, the terrorists know it, too.

See, the prime minister didn't just "die in his sleep." He was poisoned. A massive terrorist network headed by the nefarious arms dealer Aamir Barkawi has spent years infiltrating the British government in preparation for this day—the day when all the globe's big movers and shakers would conveniently gather in one place.

At first, everything goes swimmingly for the Barkawi faction. A London bridge comes falling down, taking the Japanese prime minister with it. Westminster Abbey blows up, killing the Italian leader and his companion. The German chancellor is gunned down while watching the changing of the guard. Why all these world leaders were sightseeing when they had a prominent funeral to attend I can't say, but no matter: Tourism is deadly today. No fewer than five heads of state are assassinated, and the terrorists would love to make it six.

For the moment, President Asher has dodged a bullet. Several, if you want to scrutinize the details. But when he and his security detail are attacked on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, they flee through the streets of London (chaotic enough even when there isn't a major terrorist operation in play), and most of Asher's Secret Service agents are killed. Soon, it's just the main man and Mike—rabidly pursued by Barkawi's cutthroat cronies.

Yes, Mike really hates his most recent trip to London. And he's going to make sure the terrorists hate it just as much.

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Positive Elements

Secret Service agents amaze me. While most of us say we'd give our lives for our loved ones, these men and women are actually trained to sacrifice themselves for someone else. And while Asher seems like a super-standup guy worth sacrificing for, I still marvel at the dedication these folks show onscreen (which calls well-deserved attention to what shows up in the real world, too). Indeed, several wind up dying to keep the president safe.

While in London, Asher was looking forward to Skyping with his son to learn how his school dance went. And he gives Mike some words of advice on how to parent: "Always encourage." He recommends teaching kids to follow the golden rule.

Spiritual Content

Two prominent places of worship—St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey—are subject to takeover and attack. Following a speech, the United States' vice president says, "God bless you all, and God bless America."

Sexual Content

Someone makes a crack about bringing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to London for the funeral. And someone else admits that he prefers to ogle the Kardashians. Mike jokes about Asher coming out of the closet.

Violent Content

It's not just the famous landmarks of London that take a serious beating here. Humans in London suffer a great deal as well. We see innocents gunned down and blown up. A bridge crowded with cars plunges into the River Thames. And the initial attacks don't just mow down world leaders, but hundreds of people who just happen to be in the way. (Worth noting is the fact that, unlike many action flicks, this one actually acknowledges the horror of this collateral damage.)

There's no way Mike can single-handedly even the count … but he does his best. With seemingly hundreds of terrorists to fight (many of them disguised as police officers, soldiers or medical workers), Mike has plenty of targets to choose from. He and others shoot, stab and blow up dozens of them. One man he stabs grotesquely in the eye. He snaps the neck of another. He crushes the windpipe of still another with a metal pipe, and he and the president watch as the terrorist slowly asphyxiates. Most jarringly, perhaps, he bludgeons one terrorist and then kills him while his brother, a terrorist leader, listens.

When Asher asks Mike whether that latter act was necessary, Mike tells him, simply, "No."

There's a massive street battle laden with automatic weapons, grenades and rockets. Helicopters are blown out of the sky. Cars and boats explode. Hand-to-hand combat boasts barrages of fists, feet and bludgeoning weapons. Evildoers trying to climb into moving vehicles are smashed along the sides of tunnels. Folks are shot point-blank in the head. (Splashes of blood are seen.) A gas explosion destroys a big building, and we see the flames sweep over the people still in it. A woman dies with a big spike of something sticking out of her chest. Drone strikes take out dozens of men, women and children. Kamran, the son of Aamir, holds the bloody hat of a general to prove his death. Aamir tells Kamran that the general's wife and children should be killed as well.

"Vengeance must always be profound and absolute," he says.

[Spoiler Warning] Asher orders Mike to kill him if it looks like there's no way out, turning on its head the Secret Service agent's commitment to saving his life. The president is captured alive anyway, and he is punched repeatedly in the face and gut as cuts and bruises multiply. A knife is slowly run around his neck as a threat. And a sword is drawn to behead him.

Crude or Profane Language

About 40 f-words and 10 s-words. Handfuls of words such as "a--," "b--ch," "b--tard," "h---" and "bloody." God's name is misused close to 10 times (three times with "d--n"). Jesus' name is also thrice abused.

Drug and Alcohol Content

During a morning jog, the president demands to know how Mike stays so fit. "Bourbon and poor choices," he quips. Asher later repurposes the line to describe himself.

Other Negative Elements

As a bonding exercise, Asher and his son swap off-color jokes via text pretty much every day.

Conclusion

London Has Fallen is a shallow, explosion-filled B-movie romp that encourages audiences to cheer for America—the only place on the planet possessing the strength needed to give the bad guys what's coming to 'em. We're still the baddest cat on any of the continents, the film suggests, and anyone who messes with us or our friends will soon regret it. That attitude is summed up neatly when wary law enforcement officials tell Mike it's insane to storm a terrorist outpost that's bristling with 100 baddies. "Yeah," Mike grunts, "well, they should've brought more men."

After already seriously saving the day in Olympus Has Fallen, American hero Mike Banning (who, ironically, is played by Scottish actor Gerard Butler) says as much as he pummels a terrorist repeatedly in the face. I'll paraphrase: What you guys never understand is that we're not one building. (BAM!) We're not one man. (BAM!) And no matter what you do, we'll still be here (BAM!) 1,000 years from now, ready to kick your behind again. The movie indirectly praises deadly drone strikes while shooting down (almost literally) the notion that the United States should just chill out and mind its own business. That, Mike and Asher say, ain't gonna happen—nor should it.

Do with that what you will. My reportorial role here is not a political one, after all. Which means I'll wrap things up by repeating the fact that London Has Fallen is saturated with violence. And that even if the mayhem makes it past your familial sense of protectionism, the obscene language probably won't.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Gerard Butler as Mike Banning; Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher; Angela Bassett as Lynne Jacobs; Morgan Freeman as Vice President Trumbull; Radha Mitchell as Leah Banning; Alon Aboutboul as Aamir Barkawi; Waleed Zuaiter as Kamran Barkawi

Director

Babak Najafi ( )

Distributor

Focus Features

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

March 4, 2016

On Video

June 14, 2016

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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