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James Bond 007 No time to die 2020 Daniel Craig, Rami Malek

Trailers for May 2020

Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Angel Has Fallen, Review: Dad’s Bad, Banning’s Mad, Jennings’s Glad

Angel Has Fallen, Review: Dad’s Bad, Banning’s Mad, Jennings’s Glad

Angel here is the guardian angel of the President of the United States of America, and fallen refers to his being critically wounded and, allegedly, falling from grace. So much for ethereal and angelic interpretations of the title. Now, the subject: it is a run-of-the-mill ‘cop injured in attempt to murder a VVIP that kills all others except him, falsely accused of attempted murder, discredited, arrested, hospitalised, escapes from custody, fugitive, evades arrest for a long time, has to prove his innocence in a re-run of the first imbroglio’. In 2019, such fare is dull and drab, ho-hum, dum-de-dum. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013), London Has Fallen (2016) and now, Angel Has fallen. Secret Service agent Mike Banning is undergoing mock drills at a huge facility owned by Wade Jennings, with whom Bannings had fought in a war. Jennings is a senior war veteran, and the two share bonhomie. Jennings has heard that Banning might be the next Director of the Secret Service, and requests him to recommend his company, Salient, for getting a contract to provide supplies and equipment to American servicemen posted abroad. Banning agrees to consider the request. Later, Jennings is invited to the Banning home for dinner, and they exchange pleasantries and nostalgia about the war. Jennings relates an incident that reveals that Banning has a soft heart, while he himself says that he misses all the action and killing.

While on a fishing holiday, US President Allan Trumbull confirms his offer to promote Banning to the post of Director of the Secret Service. Immediately afterwards, the place is attacked by a fleet of armoured drones. Trumbull’s entire security team is wiped out, except Banning, who, though wounded, is spared by a targeting drone. Trumbull himself barely survives and ends up in a coma. Both are hospitalised. Banning recovers, only to find that he has been framed for the assassination attempt. His DNA has been found on the vehicle that was used for the operation and US$10 mn have been traced to an off-shore account in his name, which, in turn, is traced to Moscow. He is to be transferred to jail while a full investigation is conducted, but the police van taking him is attacked by other vehicles. In the ensuing melee, Banning kills the attackers. To his horror, he finds that one of them is the same man who had pulled him up at training for making a so-called “wrong move”. Banning steals a car and avoids all public transport. The Secret Service sounds a red alert, and puts a price on Banning’s head, but he survives all attempts to catch him. Meanwhile, Vice-President Kirby is sworn-in as pro-tem President, and announces that America will retaliate against Russia.      

An oft repeated plot, it took five writers to churn it out: Robert Mark Kamen (The Karate Kid, Taken, Transporter), Matt Cook (Triple 9, The Duel, Patriots Day), director Ric Roman Waugh (In the Shadows, Felon, Snitch), Creighton Rothenberger (The Expendables, Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen) and Katrin Benedikt (Mrs. Rothenberger; co-writer on the three films above). Guess the Rothenberger came up with characters, Katrin added the Benediktion, then Mark Kamen, while Ric added Roman influences and finally, they let Matt Cook the concoction.

Why would a villain go in such a roundabout way just to get kicks (he says “It’s not about the money”) would beat any intelligent mind. How a fugitive can travel hundreds of miles in stolen cars without getting caught would beat even less intelligent minds. And both the under-arch and the arch-villain being so obviously visible even to a blind man, but their villainy not ‘deducible’ to the FBI and the Secret Service of the USA, would beat all minds. There’s more. A senior FBI operative lands into the lion’s lair, with just one fellow operative, and their helicopter pilot, for company. Easy pickings, Ma’am. An old man has holed-up in a hilly forest for decades, with full state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and dozens of remote controlled detonators planted at strategic spots. Apparently, this is penance for his walking out on his wife and young son for no justifiable reason. Guess who this old man is? Mike’s father. And since this mind-boggling twist comes up around the halfway mark, I cannot be accused to letting out spoilers.

Will one of the five writers tell me how a man with three dislocated vertebrae, suffering from recurring severe pain and migraine attacks (“You are a disaster waiting to happen, said the doctor”), could survive, without his de rigueur medication, for days on end? To be fair, he does ask his father once whether he has any aspirin, only to get an answer in the negative. Bad Dad landing up at the Banning abode, to save Mrs. Banning and Miss Banning from a fate that could have meant death or worse, was an intelligent, unexpected twist. And we did chuckle when the screen had a group picture projected, obviously morphed, showing Russian President Vladimir Putin posing alongside his American counterpart. We needed more of such stuff to sustain our interest.

Besides being a writer and director, Waugh is a stunt performer, which was his first profession in the movies, and the stunts are about the only thing worth watching in this movie, othewr than a couple of funny bits. For once, the good guys are shown dropping off like nine-pins in front of the assault from the ungodly, except when Banning is manning the artillery. His manoeuvres and his aim are near perfect, though he is often shown injured or bleeding. Obviously, producer Gerard Butler, who is the backbone of the franchise series, wants to hog the lime-light. In fact, the first shot is that of Butler, looking through a hole in the wall, as the drill to capture him begins. There is a mid-credits scene too (why, oh why?), but this one he shares with Nick Nolte. It is supposed to be funny, only it isn’t.

Gerard Butler’s contorted dialogue delivery continues, though it is much more intelligible now than it ever was. You would readily accept him as an ultra-patriotic secret service official, who can kill hordes of bad guys that might come in his way. Those blue eyes exude single-minded harshness. As a husband and father, he is less convincing. At age 48, the Scottish actor’s face already shows signs of wear and tear. Morgan Freeman, age 81, must not have been so severely roughed up ever as he has been here. Distinguished as always, he has to make little effort to look the part of the black President. Danny Huston  (Robin Hood, Wrath of the Titans, Big Eyes) puts a lot of life in his one-on-one life-and-death encounter with Butler. Otherwise, there is nothing particularly impressive about his stock-in-trade villainy.

Tim Blake Nelson as Vice-President Kirby hams in a poorly etched role. Piper Perabo has a small part as Leah Banning (Radha Mitchell played this role earlier) and acquits herself well. Jada Pinkett Smith makes a strong FBI agent, Helen Thompson. Black actor Lance Reddick as Secret Service Director David Gentry (Replacing Angela Bassett) is shifty-eyed and suspicious. But is he ‘on the take’? Here comes the surprise: Nick Nolte (Cape Fear, The Prince of Tides, The Thin Red Line, Noah) as Clay Banning, Mike’s estranged father. Active and fit till date, looks like the 77 year-old is not thinking of calling it a day anytime soon. Nolte’s character provides the much-needed comic relief, while remaining an incredulous patch in the run of proceedings. Incidentally, are the makers trying to make a statement? A black President and a black Director of the Secret Service? Obviously, they lost out on the Hispanic, (Bharat) Indian and Chinese American options.

Angel Has Fallen ranks a notch below London Has Fallen, which makes it an advance to the rear, not a good sign, when you have all the benchmarks listed on your monitor to tick, and improve upon. Yes, to be fair, there were moments when the rapid fire rounds made me shift around in my seat. Which leads me to the vital question: Can so much action elicit so much ennui? Sadly, it can. The theme has been beaten to death, and does not merit resurrection.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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