Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023)
Director: Jamie Payne
Screenwriters: Neil Cross
Starring: Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Cynthia Erivo, Dermot Crawley, Thomas Coombs, Hattie Morahan
Four years after series 5 of the hit BBC crime drama ‘Luther’, BBC Films and Netflix have teamed up to bring Idris Elba’s ruthless police detective to feature length frenzy. Luther: The Fallen Sun has Elba’s Luther on the case of a kidnapping and multiple murder case; that is, before he’s locked up for being every variation of a dirty cop you could be in the line of justice. Luther must team up with the new DCI and find a way to break out from behind bars to stop the killings from continuing.
Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, and Cynthia Erivo, as the main trio, pump in the best performances they can. Erivo does well as the under-pressure DCI trying against all odds to bring a man to justice whilst weighing up her own personal issues. Elba, as always, brings a sense of gravitas as the brooding, grizzled bear of a man, cunning and violent in equal measure, breaking the law so others can live peacefully, sacrificing himself for the good of the people. Serkis, even with blonde hair, manages to chill the bones with a refined, simple, almost Lecter-like calm, proving himself to be one of Britain’s best actors of the 21st century.
Moving from the small screen series to a sequel film has its pros and cons. You can just about pick up the basics without knowing the series, though there are one or two moments of ‘Look at the iconic coat! And the Volvo! Iconography! Fan service for those that have seen the show!’ that could have been done without, and the regular fans would have been just as happy. It also gives writer Neil Cross the ability to go slightly more cinematic with his ideas, seemingly dipping into Skyfall on several occasions. There’s a foot chase through the London Underground and the third act takes place in a big mansion out in the middle of nowhere that the hero and sidekick are shown driving to in sweeping helicopter shots. Anyone not thinking of Bond is deluding themselves. It’s a little indulgent, but it’s fun, and something ‘Luther’ hasn’t really had the chance to do too much of.
So most of The Fallen Sun is good. It’s a strong upscaling of the original series that you can follow, with good heroes and a chilling villain. And yet, there are some parts which don’t seem to connect. Jamie Payne, veteran TV director and former ‘Luther’ director, directs in a way that still somehow feels like a TV episode, if on a bigger budget and screen, and with bigger, more cinematic story elements. The story doesn’t push too much for going out there, and despite the dark, depraved nature of the storyline, it still plays it fairly safe. Considering Series 4 of the show was only 2 episodes long, this could easily have been split in half with only minimal adjustments made. Nobody would have been any the wiser.
Additionally, certain moments in the writing don’t make sense. There’s an appearance of a body that has been seemingly frozen for many years that has very minimal relevance to the plot and the solving of the crime, and several moments feel contrived, forced, in order to enable Luther to track down the evil mastermind of the story. Elba’s prison sequences don’t do much for the plot aside from a few action scenes, and the villain contacting him via a convoluted method in his cell specifically leads to his eventual tracing and capture. Timings of events are irritatingly coincidental, and of course all evil criminals can be goaded into a mistake by pointing out their character flaws directly to them, sending them into a furious rage and thereby enabling, through a brief tussle, the hero to escape. This is the law that even veteran genius writer, Neil Cross, cannot help but fall into.
Luther: The Fallen Sun is enjoyable. It has some fun sequences, the performances are good, and if you haven’t seen the show your enjoyment won’t be effected. But it isn’t much more than fun and enjoyable. It is, strangely, exactly as good as you think it should be.