When there's an assassination attempt on 'U.S. President' Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), his trusted confidant, 'Secret Service Agent' Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), is wrongfully accused and taken into custody. After escaping from capture, he becomes a man on the run and must evade his own agency and outsmart 'The FBI' in order to find the real threat to 'The President'. Desperate to uncover the truth, Banning turns to unlikely allies to help clear his name, keep his family from harm and save the country from imminent danger. "Angel Has Fallen" is a explosive, rip-roaring thriller in which the fate of the nation rests on the very man accused of attempting to assassinate 'The President Of The United States'.
The film opens at the former 'U.S. Air Force Base' at 'Upper Heyford' in Oxfordshire where Banning goes through a terrifying simulation. Banning has long been one of the stalwart heroes-in-the-shadows on whom national security depends on day in and day out, but is the always-ready warrior starting to lose it? Haunted by a lifetime soaked in adrenaline, danger and more than a few insane snafus, Mike feels his usually knifelike edge slipping. The uncertain becomes the unthinkable as he wakes up to his worst possible nightmare; The President' has fallen and Banning stands accused of conspiring to kill his friend, mentor and the man he’s sworn to protect. Now the expert hunter has become the hunted, spurring Butler’s deepest, darkest take yet on the loose-cannon action hero. On the run and with no one but his family on his side, Banning may not be able to pull himself back from the brink. But he will put his patriotism above his own as he stops at absolutely nothing to save the country that he’s alleged to have betrayed. As Banning maneuvers to evade his savvy colleagues, every quality that made him the top agent on the presidential detail is put to the test; his high-level combat skills, his ability to out-think the most twisted minds and his willingness to put himself at extreme risk to pull others from harm, only that might just be the easy part, for Banning now faces a situation for which he has zero preparation. Forced into the cold, isolated from his family, in dire physical and mental peril, the only way he can go forward is to take an unwanted turn into his past.
'Secret Service' agents live in a constant state of high alert. At any given second, they've to be ready to thwart a near-infinite number of potential threats that could come from any country, any group, or any person, without warning. Their sacrifices, the persistent danger, the merciless demands on body and soul, the stress on their relationships, are rarely recognized publicly, but they don’t do it for the recognition. They do it because they're driven to serve the highest office of the land and the bedrock of democracy. That kind of devotion has always defined Mike Banning, though, he's also a man of contrasts. On the job, he's a cunning, dogged, laser-focused patriot, but he's also a self-questioning and at times a self-deprecating man who has his dark corners of jagged regrets and frustrations. He has done and seen it all. In "Olympus Has Fallen", he rescued 'The First Family' from a 'North Korean'-led kidnapping inside 'The White House'. In "London Has Fallen", he kept 'President Asher' from harm during a terrorist attack on world leaders attending 'The British Prime Minister’s' funeral. For the first time in "Angel Has Fallen", Banning is no longer sure if he can trust his own agency. He can’t sleep, he can’t get through the day without pain killers and even his doctor can see that he’s heading at 100 mph for a brick wall. Then, the bottom drops out. He might be a trained killer, but there’s always been an everyman aspect to Mike. So, in this film, even though there’s a huge external struggle, we get to know a lot more about his internal struggles with his father Clay (Nick Nolte), his wife Leah ( (Piper Perabo) and his own future, struggles we all have. It makes the stakes of the action that much higher because we’re so inside his world. It's a portrait of a more life-sized man, a hardboiled warrior facing down his own doubts.
It all starts with Banning being offered the prized job of 'Director Of The Secret Service' by 'President Trumbull'. It’s an incredible opportunity, but it’s also just the kind of indoor job that makes Banning chafe. He’s not at all sure he’s ready to be a desk jockey. Mike’s wife Leah loves the idea of the director job. She knows he’ll be safer, but Mike still loves being on the frontlines. In a way it’s heartbreaking because his dedication and courage are what motivated 'President Trumbull' to offer him this really great, prominent job; yet to Mike, it feels a little like the end of who he's. That’s exactly what Mike is thinking about as he faces a desk job. It brings up this huge question for him; 'do I keep trying to be the person I was in my youth or do I find a way to embrace who I’ve become'? It’s something a lot of people go through in all walks of life. Mike Banning is known for his badassery, and now we get to see a lot more of where he comes from. The film puts you inside Banning’s head as he goes from offense to defense, from proud warrior to fugitive, so that you get to see and feel everything he’s going through. For fans, it’s a chance to see what makes Banning tick, and for new audiences, it's a discovery of a really relatable character surviving in an extraordinary situation. So, you still get a tremendous amount of action but with a whole new and fresh point of view.
It has always been Banning’s everyday authenticity and down-to-earth humor that stands out against today’s line-up of fantastical superheroes, but in this film, he's stripped down to his most human yet. Part of Banning’s appeal has been that he’s such a real-life guy. He’s someone trying to be a family man while dealing with the heavy emotional toll his work takes on him. People can really relate to that, but on the other hand, he’s one of the toughest dudes you could ever hope to meet. He will never quit. That’s how he sees himself, but that image is put to the test in this film in ways he’d rather it wasn’t. With his grit and loyalty under fire, Banning also comes face-to-face with the costs of the warrior’s life as he tries to evade mounting signs of 'PTSD'. In this chapter, you realize that this man you’ve seen go through all these firefights, explosions and crashes has paid a price. Banning has been silently struggling in his work and at home, but he’s keeping it all secret because he doesn’t want to let people down and he wants to keep doing the job he loves and believes in. It’s not the greatest timing for the whole nation to think he’s a terrorist at large, to say the least. He’s also very clear on that fact that, whatever his fate, 'The President' is in grave danger and he's the only person left who can figure out where the threat is coming from. As Banning is put under crushing pressure, it gives him more room to dive deep. It’s very revealing to watch an incredible hero you’ve always seen chasing others, become the chased and desperate man.
'President Trumbull' has taken on the mantle, and all the hazards, of being 'Commander-In-Chief'. Now his life is on the line along with his trust in Banning. Nearly assassinated and told his most trusted 'Secret Service' agent is the prime suspect in the deadly attack, Trumbull faces a dilemma that could endanger not only his cherished friendship with Mike Banning but the future of the world. In the earlier films, Trumbull already proved that he trusted Banning, and Banning has always felt a bond with Trumbull, beyond his duty to protect him. In this film, you see how much of a mentor Trumbull has become to Banning. They each look at the other as one of the few people they can talk to honestly. They can joke together, and they even rip on each other a little, respectfully, which is rare in Trumbull’s life, and to me, Trumbull becomes the center of the movie because in a way, they're each other’s lifeline if either one is going to survive. 'President Trumbull' is such a father-figure to Mike Banning and that's really put on the line. He has that mix of pathos, gravitas, and warmth, yet with a dash of roguishness that makes him a great leader and the kind of person to whom Mike can relate. Trumbull is a honorable, courageous man and a very good politician. But he’s not really based on any historical president because the situation is so unique and the decisions he has to make haven’t really had to be made by any President that we know of.
"Angel Has Fallen" takes Mike Banning into his darkest hour, but also his hidden past. Things take a wild switchback into turbulent father-son territory when Banning looks for refuge in the last place on earth he ever thought he’d go; his long-estranged father’s Clay (Nick Nolte) off-the-grid cabin. Here he has to confront a man he has never understood or had the chance to question; the Vietnam vet who walked out on him as a boy and retreated from his 'PTSD' and paranoia into life as a lone survivalist in the woods. He brings a sense of frayed dignity to a man not quite sure if he’s ready for redemption. There’s a fascinating contrast between Mike and his dad because Mike is driven to keep running into war and his dad is still trying to run from it. All along, it’s been a deep regret in Mike’s life that he never really had a father, but now that he needs his father that means he also has to put up with him. He and Clay think they're cut from different cloth, but now that they’re forced together, it allows them to see their connection. Like Mike, Clay came from a proud tradition of military discipline, but it left him in distress.
After two tours in Vietnam, when he came home to his wife and child, he couldn’t make it. It happened to a lot of good soldiers. You can’t go easily from the extreme survival of war back to a normal life. Your brain gets rewired and that’s what happened to Clay. He came back and felt he couldn’t be a good father, so he cleared out. The way he sees it, his disappearing was the best thing that ever happened to Mike because Clay felt he had nothing to teach but violence and anger. Clay wants to allow himself no creature comforts. He wants the barest minimum he can possibly live with, one cup, one fork, one plate, one bed. Really there's no reason to even have a chair because he doesn’t have any visitors, not until Mike shows up. When Mike does show up, the mix of anger and affection, skepticism and understanding, defiance and need is incendiary. In the scene at the cabin, you can feel so much going on inside Clag all at once; he’s broken, grief-stricken, excited, questioning, wondering, fearful, judging, hoping and more. You can see Clay’s whole life and struggles coming through in just the way he moves his face. As the characters grew closer, we also bonded in a big way.
Another character who comes to the fore in "Angel Has Fallen" is Banning’s wife, Leah. She has always been one of Mike’s biggest supporters and joys, but now as a new mother, she worries that Mike is retreating into private darkness that could lock her out. Now that they've a daughter, there's a whole new dynamic between Leah and Mike, she has a vision of them moving forward in a way that will make them both happy. Much as she understands what drives her husband, Leah can’t hide her desire for Mike to take the director job that will see him still doing his patriotic duty, but safely seated within four walls. Most of all Leah just wants Mike to be home more. Their relationship is really healthy and they trust each other, but she just wants more time to have fun with him. Leah knows something is about to explode. Another key player in the film is Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), a long-time buddy and military compatriot of Banning’s, who in a time of peace has turned to the growing world of private military contractors. It's Wade who spurs doubts in Banning’s mind after a training session that leaves him battered. Wade has taken a different path from Mike. He sees himself as a ferocious lion who has been put in a cage and he doesn’t really know how to interact with the world in a state of peace. They both understand that power of adrenaline, even if they make different choices. Once the chase begins, the cat to Banning’s mouse is 'FBI Agent' Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith). She's really smart and tough as nails. She's intense, serious and a straight-shooter, but she’s also wily enough to keep up with Banning. Of course, she’s under biggest pressure to bring in the suspect wanted to assassinate 'The President Of The United States'.
To lock Mike Banning into a chaotic world of ceaseless jeopardy, the bottom line for all can be summed up in one word; groundedness. The film captures how people really move in a fight or a chase, what it really sounds like and the visceral feel of it. The idea is to immerse people completely into Banning’s 'POV' of every moment. "Olympus" and "London" each had about 13 action sequences. Here we’ve upped that to 23 sequences, which is a lot. It never stops. The audience feels every bump and explosion. Everything is bigger and faster in every moment; we've fast boats, fast trucks, fast drones, and huge explosions. These drones can work as a swarm to find and target an enemy. Of course, it’s all military secrets, so the film designs his own, but everything you see in the film is based on real tech. In one of the film’s most harrowing chases, Banning finds himself in a speeding semi on a dark mountain road pursued by police and helicopters, with no obvious escape route. It feels super grounded and real but also put you inside Banning’s head as he’s trying to escape while inflicting as little damage as he can. The film puts in almost documentary-like details to create what’s an incredible gauntlet run. As Mike Banning becomes a fugitive on the run, the film flows seamlessly through a real-time chase that never lets up. The 'Oval Office' colors are quite different to the ones you’ve seen before, but we learn that each president gets to pick the colors they want, so 'President Trumbull' has a great taste and makes 'The Oval' more dynamic than you’ve seen it.
The third installment in 'The Fallen Series', "Angel Has Fallen" stands on it's own as a psychologically tense, kinetic thriller that never lets off the accelerator from its opening killer-drone attack. It also adds a revealing new chapter to the legend of Mike Banning, as the hazards of his work collide into his private life, pushing him to explore how he became the man he's now. It’s also exactly where we want to see the franchise go next, inviting audiences into a ride as psychologically volatile as it's filled with wall-to-wall stunts and battles. What’s great is that while this movie gets much more personal, there’s also more action than ever, so the ride is heightened on all levels. There’s brutal, crazy, epic combat, but in the same breath, there’s real drama and it’s also the funniest of the films. The film makes this mad roller-coaster ride as visceral as possible at every turn. As visceral as the action and design are, it all serves to open up a window into Banning’s soul that resonates beyond the thrills. The film puts in all the fun and thrills you’d expect from a Mike Banning story.