Idris Elba Leads A Serviceable Entertaining Thriller That Won’t Reinvent A Thing
Feb 27, 2023
“Luther: The Fallen Sun” comes out as the chatter about Idris Elba as James Bond has finally dissipated. A film that makes enough passes to the 007 franchise that it could easily drum up more pointless columns about the endless debate. This Netflix film winks at its audience despite its grim tone. Yes, Luther is a rather po-faced crime thriller with horror film tropes on the outside, but small nods to martinis and Andy Serkis’ icy cool supervillain hideaway sneakily prod viewers towards what a handful of them would like to see. Elba donning the tux. Hell, even Andy Serkis’ hilarious hairstyle and overtly blue eyes are dead giveaways.
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If such things can be found in “Luther,” the TV series. Forgive this writer, for they have only seen a couple of early episodes of the popular crime drama. Fans of “Luther” will need to make up their minds as if this Netflix-produced feature captures what is loved in the rouge detective series. Those who are new to the rouge London detective would do well to give the show a watch on streaming sites. While you don’t need a cataloged history to get into the character, ‘The Fallen Sun’ isn’t interested in re-introducing the character. No one will get lost starting their viewing with this movie. However, ‘The Fallen Sun’ seems to expect viewers to know who the character is. It’s hard not to feel that Luther, as a character is a bit thin.
The same can be said for the movie’s slender yet grimly entertaining story. Detective John Luther (Idris Elba) finds himself haunted by cyber serial killer David Robey (Andy Serkis), whose connections and intricate plotting ensure that the detective gets landed in jail while on the case of Robey’s last victim. After breaking out of prison, Luther continues his obsessive drive to finish the case. All the while, he is closely watched by his former boss Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) and new Detective, Superintendent Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo).
‘The Fallen Sun’ isn’t reinventing the crime thriller. It is merely extending the life of some recent IP due to the now inherent belief that this seems to be the only way to get an amount of traction with anything. Like a few TV Shows that get a chance to deliver a film entry, Luther’s big screen debut at times feels like a standard episode blown up to size. Director Jamie Payne works hard to give things a sense of scale. Some neat compositions help provide a cinematic feel. And while the film’s action may not be the most substantial, it holds the ambition of what one would expect from a feature. However, far too often, the film’s thin characterization and cumbersome narrative rhythm hold Luther back from being more than the film could be. Some of the film’s unsettling concepts and grisly visuals may startle and excite hardcore fans or the uninitiated. “But Se7en,” this ain’t. ‘The Fallen Sun’ feels like it could have been a well-thought-out 6th season. Alas, much of the story feels truncated.
That said, ‘The Fallen Sun’ does have enough in it to see why the original show has such a well-loved status. The character of John Luther feels like he could be a persuasive watch in his original form. This is mainly down to how Elba portrays him. Luther sometimes feels somewhat unassuming, despite being a copper who skirts the law for results. Elba’s screen presence here is genuinely compelling. Andy Serkis’ turn as a twisted serial killer is solid, although his character trying to make The Supremes unnerving is a misstep. While this is a performance that the actor could do in his sleep, it’s gratifying to see him take up the role. Unfortunately, the stone-face display from Cynthia Erivo is the film’s biggest casting miscalculation. Erivo has undoubtedly been enjoyable elsewhere. However, he struggles to give a rather thankless character any strong reason for us to care.
In addition to the cast, the film’s central set pieces are genuinely enjoyable. A busy Piccadilly Circus sequence involving filmed victims falling from the top of buildings has an intensely disquieting atmosphere. As does a gruesome visual of hanging bodies used as bait inside an empty London mansion. The finale’s excursion to Iceland is also quite welcoming, providing an element of respite from the claustrophobic streets of London. Unfortunately, the film takes time for the action to finally get there. There is just enough on the film’s surface to keep the journey entertaining.
Netflix’s secretive knowledge behind which of its shows and films become successful may play at odds with the film’s final moments. Fans of the show may just be happy enough to see more Luther on the screen in general. For this writer, one can set aside John Luther’s inhuman ability to tolerate brutal injury or the bewildering capabilities of mobile phones underwater. There’s enough in ‘The Fallen Sun’ to provide distracting Friday night entertainment. And that is perhaps the only thing Netflix needs. [C]
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