Mike Banning needs to retire.
No, really. He’s seen multiple doctors, and they’re all saying the same thing: Take it easy and be more careful. But that’s kind of hard to do when your job is protecting the president of the United States and you’re up for a promotion.
Mike is conflicted. He wants to retire. He’d be able to spend more time with his family, and his health would likely improve. But as Wade Jennings, his friend from the military, says, “We’re lions.” They live for the fight. Even if it might kill them.
Before Mike can make any decisions, though, President Trumbull gets attacked, and a flurry of drones blows up every member of his security detail—everyone but Mike, that is. Mike manages to save the President, but he can’t keep Trumbull from falling into a coma. And after the FBI discovers a van filled with incriminating drone equipment and Mike’s DNA, he becomes their number one suspect in the assassination attempt.
Once the president’s guardian angel, now a fugitive, Mike escapes custody to find the attack’s real perpetrators. But even as he works feverishly to clear his name, it becomes clear that those who tried to take out Trumbull the first time are still out there.
And they won’t fail again.
Mike Banning is truly dedicated to the president. Although his reputation as a decorated officer and Secret Service agent is important to him, the President’s safety matters the most. And the moment he realizes Trumbull is still in danger, Mike begins to brainstorm how he can communicate what he knows to the FBI and the president’s security team.
While he’s on the run, Mike seeks asylum with his dad, Clay. Clay Banning abandoned his family when Mike was a baby, largely due to the trauma he had endured as a soldier. This caused heartache for Mike, who says, “Your country didn’t betray you. You betrayed yourself.” Clay responds, “Sometimes it’s better to know when to quit instead of lying to yourself and hurting the ones you love.” While that statement’s ethics are debatable, Clay nevertheless realizes how much he hurt Mike by leaving. And the older man resolves to mend old wounds with his son and to try to be the father he never was.
The president is committed to avoiding war. When an advisor asks Trumbull about hiring private defense contractors, he refuses to do so, stating that fighting for money is not the same as fighting for your flag.
Mike and his wife, Leah, are a strong couple. Although he keeps some secrets from her (partially to protect her from the grislier side of his job), she understands his motivations for doing so. When FBI agents ransack the couple’s house, reveal some of Mike’s secrets, and try to intimidate Leah, she stands steadfastly by her husband and refuses to speak against him, even after she and their daughter receive death threats.
When President Trumbull is in a coma, Vice President Kirby is sworn into office. They have him place his hand on a Bible and repeat the presidential oath of office, which concludes with the phrase, “So help me God.” Elsewhere, a character earnestly exclaims, “Thank God.” A woman talks about melting away “negative energy” at a zero gravity center.
Mike kisses Leah. We see his bare back as he changes clothes. Mike and Clay wear swimming trunks at the zero gravity chamber.
Generally, you can count on a lot of guns and explosions in action movies, and Angel Has Fallen is no exception. We see FBI agents, Secret Service agents, and Salient agents (the private defense contractor trying to frame Mike) donning body armor and taking up arms against each other and against Mike. Combat includes point-blank shots to the head, exploding grenades and RPGs, slashing knife attacks … and lots of blood.
In multiple close-combat exchanges, Mike shoots, stabs and knocks out Salient assailants, despite being outnumbered and often while taking bullets (to his bullet-proof body armor). In one scene, he does this while handcuffed and even uses the cuffs to strangle one of his captors.
Salient manages to track Mike down and surrounds him at his father’s house. Clay is clearly a paranoid recluse because what follows can only be described as an insane and ridiculous amount of explosions as he blows up the hundreds of bombs and mines buried in the forest surrounding his property, killing all of the Salient operatives. Just when you think he’s done, there’s more. Even Mike is shocked by this display: “Really?!” he asks. “You’re welcome,” Clay responds.
In the drone attack on the president’s security team, bodies get thrown across the screen, and one man is seen on fire before falling into a lake and apparently dying. Later, when the FBI investigates the scene, the victims’ mangled bodies are shown. While transporting Mike to a prison facility, the vehicles in his motorcade are T-boned by members of Salient, resulting in still more deaths.
Mike’s wife and infant daughter are held at gunpoint by members of Salient. Two FBI agents beg for their lives before Salient’s owner executes them with shots to their heads. After an emergency evacuation, a building is blown up and crumbles to the ground, spreading ash, dust, and smoke throughout the surrounding area.
The f- and s-words are the most common profanities here, and we hear more than 85 instances of these words total. (One f-word is paired with the f-word.) “H—,” “a–,” “a–hole,” “d–n,” “pr–k,” and “d–mit,” are each used a handful of times as well. God’s name is misused at least four times, including one pairing with “d–mit,” and Jesus’ name is misused another four times. There is one crude reference to male genitalia.
One of the reasons Mike sees so many doctors, we learn, is because he has developed an addiction to painkillers (a fact he hides from his wife and the President). This becomes a point of contention when Mike is arrested, since government agents believe Mike is probably lying about more than just his drug problem.
Mike and Wade drink whiskey together. Smoking is mentioned.
While trying to clear his name, Mike steals a pickup truck and a semi. While driving the semi, he is recognized and chased by police, which results in a wreck on an abandoned road.
A man urinates in a zero-gravity water tank.
Unlike its predecessors, Angel Has Fallen chooses not to focus on foreign terrorism and America’s triumph over it, but rather how America’s military might causes just as many problems at home. War was psychologically detrimental to Clay Banning, so much so that he felt he had to abandon his family in order to protect them from himself. The film also shows other characters who’ve been corrupted by their participation in the armed services.
And then there’s our hero, Mike.
Mike Banning should’ve just listened to his doctors. The man had already single-handedly staved off a nuclear holocaust and thwarted an assassination plot in the previous Fallen installments. And really, the president has hundreds of people willing to take a bullet (or bomb) for him.
Seriously: You’re getting old, Mike. Just stay home!
But of course, that’s not what Banning does. Because an action thriller in which the hero just stays home obviously isn’t much of a thriller at all.
So audiences are once again blasted by a nonstop barrage of gunfire, explosions, bloodshed, and foul language—not to mention personal threats on Mike’s family. Sure, Angel Has Fallen wants us to think it’s actually critiquing that carnage and its human costs. The filmmakers want us to see that violence isn’t the answer … the kind of violence this R-rated actioner unleashes from start to finish.