Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023) – Film Review

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Director: Jamie Payne
Cast: Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Dermot Crowley
Certificate: 15

By Roger Crow

A decade ago, while reviewing the TV drama Luther, I wrote the following: “Now the series trilogy is over, for my money it’s time to give Idris (Elba) the big screen vehicle he deserves. And if you need an investor BBC Films, I’ll happily shell out for a new coat.”

It took a long wait, but fans of Neil Cross’s always compelling saga finally got their wish. And yes, that shabby old overcoat is back.

Luther: The Fallen Sun, which has a release in some cinemas, but will be mostly seen on Netflix, also features some well-worn material. As we live in an age when smart speakers, webcams, mobile phones, and PCs can monitor your every move, word and browsing history, there’s little wonder cyber threat is more disturbing than ever. Is it as disturbing as some of the scenes in Cross’s latest chapter? Possibly.

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“Psycho mode”

The plot: following the abduction of a young man, detective John Luther is called in to investigate and promises the victim’s distraught mother he’ll do what he can to bring the bad guy to justice.

Before you can say “What just happened?”, our hero is banged up inside, where he contends with a lot of irate inmates, many of who he probably put away.

And when there’s a hero in prison, that means there must be an escape planned.

Except when it comes, the inevitable breakout feels a bit leaden. Realistic maybe, but when Tom Cruise did it in one of the Mission: Impossible movies, it felt so much better.

There’s no mystery about who the bad guy is. Andy Serkis is in full-on psycho mode as the generic antagonist, though it’s hard to get past that absurd hair. (“There’ll Be Hell Toupee” would have been a better alternate title.)

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“Ritualistic killings”

I’m guessing Andy was going for a certain ex-US president, or TV game show host, and inevitably that’s sort of what the movie turns into. All with Lorne Balfe’s portentous OTT score. There’s little chance for tension to build when every dramatic beat is signposted so loudly.

The other problem is we’ve been here so many times before, and not just in the often sublime TV show. It’s four years since the last TV eps, so a rewatch is definitely recommended as some threads are alluded to. Obviously if you’re new to the saga, boy are you in for a treat playing catch up.

Nice to see Dermot (Return of the Jedi) Crowley back as the protagonist’s old boss, but oh that déjà vu.

There’s a nagging sense of Ken Stott’s early 2000s BBC drama Messiah; ritualistic killings with a religious overtone. Danish horror The Ringmaster also comes back to haunt me; Damon Younger’s psycho villain in that movie was far more effective.

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“Strange beast”

Oh, and a certain Bond epic also springs to mind.

Skyfall homage is where we start… and end. (Psycho hacker. Tube chase. Hero’s rooftop view of the smoke. Frozen lake).

Luther with a Hollywood budget is a strange beast. Idris is terrific as ever, and there’s a fabulous Leicester Square set piece which “puts you in mind of” a classic John Landis horror comedy. A shame there’s no cameo by Alan Ford as a cabby. And a shame no Ruth Wilson as Alice, Luther’s femme fatale sidekick either.

Luther’s uneasy graduation into the cinematic big leagues isn’t a failure. It’s often gripping, and Elba steals every second he’s in, as usual. But enough with the Black Mirror-style psycho hacker storyline already.

Luther: The Fallen Sun is streaming on Netflix

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