Luther: Fallen Sun review: Idris Elba returns in a messy film

Despite having Idris Elba and a few other reliable bits, this two-hour sequel to the BBC drama is out of its depth.

Misery is part of the “Luther” equation. Suspects, victims and detectives are visited, and to some extent, spectators. For five seasons it was a cornerstone of BBC crime drama, a never-ending series of lows (emotionally, not necessarily qualitatively).

This all-consuming darkness was the main thread of “Luther,” accompanied by the shuffling in and out of DCI John Luther’s (Idris Elba) associates and compatriots. He had partners before – in most senses of the word – they died before him. He uncovered gruesome murders and mutilated corpses. These five seasons have been a steady dose of climbing to see how much one person can survive.

So after nearly a decade of rumblings, the long-debated film “Luther” has arrived. More of an adaptation than an expansion, “Luther: Fallen Sun” changes the setting and Luther’s toolkit in ways that make it accessible to viewers who haven’t spent 20 hours following his on-screen story. Like Luther’s latest nemesis, “Luther: Fallen Sun” is a big hit, and not always to his advantage.

After a quick prelude, the film finds Luther behind bars. It’s closed, but not for reasons that the end of the last TV season might have hinted at. (Besides a quick shot of Season 5’s killer in one of the newscasts, “The Fallen Sun” deals a lot with what the last finale may have set in motion.) From prison, where he’s also targeted by men. In nearby cells, Luther receives a taunting message from David Robey (Andy Serkis), England’s newest crime boss and a man who personally targets the former detective. Believing that he is the only person who can stop Robey before he kills again, Luther sets in motion a plan to break free and personally track down the killer.

Luther: The Fallen Sun.  (L-R) Cynthia Erivo as Odette Raine and Dermot Crowley as Martin Schenk in Luther: Fallen Sun.  BC John Wilson/Netflix © 2023

“Luther: The Fallen Sun”

John Wilson/Netflix

With the list of living former partners severely depleted after the events of Season 5, the show’s other main holdover is ex-boss Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley). Soon, he and Luther’s de facto deputy, Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo), are engaged in a two-pronged battle: find out who is leaving elaborate displays of death across London and stop Luther from interfering.

It helps that Erivo and Crowley lend a steady hand, as their characters undoubtedly have their hands full with both accounts. Whether it’s a botched strategy to make Luther feel more like a big-screen superhero, or a symptom of a movie industry that can’t support big-budget stories unless the entire world is at stake, “Luther: Fallen Sun” doesn’t settle for mere gestures toward the operatic. .

Luther doesn’t need to hire a few men while trying to break out of prison – he needs four dozen. It’s not enough that Robey chases people to death – it has to be a public spectacle. Where the series previously thrived on the idea of ​​ugliness lurking in the open corners of everyday life, this film works three times as hard to weave together concerns about privacy and the surveillance state, turning it all into something more spectacular than shocking.

The original writer of the series, Neil Cross, who has openly stated that he wants to put his characters through the most exquisite torture imaginable, performs the same duties here. “Luther: The Fallen Sun” is also a reteaming with Jamie Payne, who helped create Season 5, which brought the series back to its roots before it ended in an explosive parade of violence. Both Cross and Payne successfully manage the claustrophobic side of “Luther,” portraying a man running out of options and running out of space. After “Luther: Fallen Sun” brings its hero out into the open, the film becomes a chaotic mess painted on too large a canvas.

Luther: The Fallen Sun.  Andy Serkis as David Robey in Luther: Fallen Sun.  BC John Wilson/Netflix © 2023

“Luther: The Fallen Sun”

John Wilson/Netflix

Serkis tries to inject at least some theatrical fun into it all, dressing in a really gaudy hairdo as he feeds Robey’s widespread dreams of developing a global blackmail network. For all the questions Elba has had to answer over the years about the one franchise role he never got, this movie is enough to make you wonder if Serkis always dreamed of being a Bond villain.

Still, the “Luther” baddies are historically the only place where this fictional world has made sense of its misery. Some of them had sense, but it was a deep pain. Even those with the pettiness and sass of Ruth Wilson’s Alice Morgan (a character not even whispered about here) ended up choosing the avenger over the clean getaway. Paradoxically, in a movie/TV series that desperately lacks entertainment, Robey somehow enjoys too much.

This discordant spirit is symptomatic of “Luther: Fallen Sun” as a whole. It’s not that Serkis, Erivo or Elba are necessarily failures. It’s that they all seem plucked from different worlds and smashed together out of necessity, which is most apparent in an overstuffed climactic showdown full of ideas that “Luther” previously did more practically and effectively. Watching “Luther: Fallen Sun” is like watching a smaller version of “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” as if it’s a re-imagined Cross script that’s been retooled to be the “Luther” movie that everyone remembers. asked: Start with a more general premise. tracks down a technovillain cat-and-mouse, but add some creepy masks, a touch of sexual frustration, and Luther himself. By the time some overly ambitious special effects are added to the soup, the pot begins to overflow.

It’s extra frustrating when so many of the quieter moments have some classic “Luther” touches. There’s a bit of grace in that sequence where Luther comforts someone who thinks he’s about to die. It’s a little thrill to see Luther outwit someone who has told him too much but doesn’t realize it yet. For a good part of the film’s 129 minutes, there is ruthlessness and emptiness on the screen, but underneath you can also see a beating heart. Retaining a modicum of humanity in the face of cruelty led to some of the show’s best moments. There isn’t much in “Luther: Fallen Sun” worth fighting for.

Grade: C+

“Luther: The Fallen Sun” is now playing in select theaters. The film will begin streaming on Netflix on Friday, March 10.

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