Directed by Jamie Payne — Screenplay by Neil Cross.
The British crime drama series Luther has been on my watchlist for quite some time. Recently, with the release of Luther: The Fallen Sun on the horizon, I decided to finally check it out, and, so, I’ve spent the better part of a week binge-watching the British series that proved to be a successful star vehicle for Idris Elba whose magnetic screen presence elevated the series above lesser genre fare. I liked the series quite a bit, but, admittedly, the show started to lose me around series four, and the show didn’t hold my attention or interest as well in series four and five as it had done earlier. This did make me nervous about the film, as it was written by the series’ writer and creator and directed by the man who directed the fifth series. While The Fallen Sun is not without faults (it’s incredibly obvious what it’s trying to be), I must admit that I found it to be more arresting, gripping, and watchable than both series four and five.
In Luther: The Fallen Sun, DCI John Luther (played by Idris Elba) is fired, prosecuted, and imprisoned due to a leaked dossier that reveals what he has done on the job. Once inside, he receives a recording from a serial killer (played by Andy Serkis) who taunts to ex-copper. To solve the case and stop the serial killer, Luther must break out of prison and evade capture by the department that he once worked for.
So, let’s get something big out of the way immediately, unless I’m mistaken, this film almost immediately retcons the end of series five. To the best of my recollection, the film insists it is because of the actions of this film’s villain that Luther is locked up and not the final scenes of series five. This, to me, felt like an unnecessary change and a bit of a contrivance for the purpose of it making sense for Luther to receive the recording from the villain while inside prison. If Luther and the villain weren’t already connected, there would be no reason to have Luther receive anything, so this absolutely feels like a film invention and feels forced.
Outside of problems with series continuity, the biggest issue with Luther: The Fallen Sun is that it’s obviously trying to be something the series just isn’t. While it is interesting that this film wants to reinvent or further develop the character, it feels like an artificial leap to suddenly have Luther take part in an international Bond-esque plot. And, make no mistake, this is the Idris Elba Bond film that he’ll probably never get Barbara Broccoli to greenlight. But it also feels like a generic Bond film with the grittiness of Luther added in. There’s a secret lair in Norway, the antagonist is this murderous mastermind that feels like a mixture of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise and Blofeldt from the Daniel Craig Bond films, and the title Fallen Sun doesn’t make any sense with regards to the actual plot of the film, but it does sound a little bit like Skyfall, right?
Are there some leaps in the plot that stretch credulity? Yeah, probably. I can say that there were one or two developments that didn’t fully make sense to me, as to how much time happened between certain events and how exactly Luther figured out a certain thing. Still, this is partly also true of the series. Especially in the first series, the show has a habit of solving grizzly murders and strange puzzles a little bit too quickly. Leaps in logic were something I expected, to be honest.
It is easy to tell that this film has received a larger budget as the action set pieces are, frankly, just bigger. There’s a prison riot that I thought was pretty neat, and also a Piccadilly Circus sequence that strains credulity but was fully arresting, for example. The action filmmaking isn’t exactly Bond-level or Wick-level, but it is competent, just like how this film is always watchable and fairly entertaining (but not exactly much more than that). Honestly, the thing that stuck out the most as being a distraction was the wig on Andy Serkis’ head.
And yet, again, it is watchable and entertaining. Even though they’ve tried to take Luther to the next level in a way that feels a little bit too close to Bond, it still gets the job done and is easier and more fun to follow than series four and five. For Idris Elba, it is a perfectly fine Bond audition, as his screen presence continues to elevate the entire Luther production. I also like that there is this really fun scene between Luther and a bartender that seems to be Elba’s tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging his interest in James Bond (and perhaps it’s also his way of saying goodbye to that ‘fan-cast’).
Luther has always had a strong supporting cast and this film is no different. The presence of Andy Serkis makes the antagonist feel like more than just a villain-of-the-week even though his wig is distracting, Dermot Crowley has some fun exchanges with Elba as he has returned to the role of Martin Schenk, and Cynthia Erivo is a really cool addition to the series universe as the new DCI, even though Erivo’s talent is underused here.
Luther: The Fallen Sun mostly works as a heightened and reinvented version of the series that came before it, and it takes the titular character in an interesting new direction. But as a film, it feels too much like a generic international Bond flick to truly stand out. As always, Idris Elba’s central performance ensures that even though the material is merely lukewarm some scenes absolutely sizzle.
6 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.