London Has Fallen

            It’s so easy to drop the drones in, especially when the tempting target is a cell of known terrorists.  We have the technology.  And it’s so much easier than boots on the ground.

            The trouble is, terrorist cells are still people, who often have families, and while living with them might provide some degree of anonymity, it also puts them at risk.  Everybody understands this.  But “collateral damage” is far too light a term to begin to describe the emotional devastation wrought by it.

            “London Has Fallen” begins with a wedding in Pakistan.  The father of the bride, Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul, who was actually born in Israel), is an unabashed arms dealer, with a strong network of henchmen, including family members, who, of course, are also at the wedding.  The drone strike was designed for him, but he survived, though his daughter did not.  Barkawi plots his revenge for a full two years, awaiting the right opportunity.

            When the Prime Minister of Great Britain dies of a mysterious illness, the leaders of many countries quickly make plans to attend the state funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  The Secret Service head, Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), hates this kind of scenario, because there are so many uncontrollable elements.  But President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is determined to go, and insists that his favorite agent, Mike Bannon (Gerard Butler) is assigned to his security detail, as well. 

            It’s an unmitigated disaster.  Barkawi’s carefully-planned attack not only manages to assassinate several Heads of State, but also several notable landmarks of London, creating complete chaos.  The normal security apparatus is compromised because of an “inside mole” in MI6.  President Asher manages to escape the initial attempt because of a schedule change and Mike Bannon’s personal assistance, but eventually the two men get separated from the rest of the security detail, and it’s up to them to survive in the eerily-abandoned streets of London.

            Of course it’s violent.  But who wouldn’t want a near-invincible Secret Service agent protecting our President in a foreign country when suddenly everything erupts into chaos and destruction?  Yes, the human element is added because the mastermind terrorist cannot help but personally taunt the powers that be.  And it’s much easier to focus our wrath on a known criminal.  But as “London Has Fallen” painfully demonstrates, “collateral damage” cuts both ways.

Questions for Discussion:

1)                   Are you in favor of drone strikes in the Middle East?  Even if the possibility exists of “collateral damage”?

2)                  Do you think that the President should be restricted in international travel “for security reasons”?  What about unaccompanied domestic travel?

3)                  Who are our enemies who would delight in staging an attack such as portrayed in this film?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association