In today’s modern technologically advanced society, the devices we rely on to live day in, and day out have numerous useful applications and uses behind them. Let’s face it, our phones are basically highly powered minicomputers that we carry around wherever we go. And every year, upgrades are made to make life easier than before despite how unnecessary the changes may be. Even cars are being made with add-ons that allow the wheel to self-steer itself, so we don’t have to. And with how beneficial advanced technology has become, there is a downside, the digital landscape has become all consuming, forming an unhealthy attachment to our treasured devices. There is something on the worldwide web that can satisfy any want or need no matter how disturbing, deadly, disastrous or secretive the searcher wants to be.
Nothing is truly deleted or erased from existence in the digital age and there are those that wish to leech off our dirty secrets and use them as manipulation and blackmail against those that wish these vices remain hidden from the world.
That is the basic motivation for the villain of Luther: The Fallen Sun. Based on and acting as a continuation of the popular BBC series of the same name created by Neil Cross, the first feature length film stresses the over reliance on technology, privacy and secrecy of hidden skeletons we all hang up in our closets. What better way to bring the popular British series to the big screen than to have Cross write the screenplay – who knows his characters in and out, front and back. The good news to this being, the series is not a pre-requisite to watch the film and understand the main character DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) and his motivations as an officer.
Once the film starts, Luther, fresh on the scene investigating a disappearance is immediately caught directly in the crosshairs with a target on his back thanks to the use of surveillance technology. After Luther is millionaire city trader psychopath David Robey (Andy Serkis) who manipulates all of Luther’s past transgressions including bribery, intimidation and breaking and entering (to name a few) to put Luther behind bars and strip him of his title, reputation, and credibility.
However it isn’t just Luther that Robey is after – anyone with a secret or humiliating vice that can cause ripples of damage to loved ones is in Robey’s sights. Robey’s entire purpose is to use people to his advantage, whatever skeletons they may have – to do his narcissistic bidding. Behind Robey Is a team of under bellied civilians with no choice but to bend to Robey’s inhumane desires. Throughout the film, as the narrative unravels, It’s those who are blackmailed by Robey that create the obstacles for DCI Luther and DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) with Robey acting as a puppet master. A first half of a 129-minute runtime that sets up disturbing psychological serial killer in the same vein as Se7en’s John Doe.
One scene in particular that catches the eye and puts further strain on the reliance and practicality of technology happens in a basic office space. Cubicles of Robey’s people using everyday household items like Amazon products to TV’s to laptop cameras to spy and gather sensitive information on potential victims. Compounded by the fact that there are truths to these devices listening and algorithms applying this information in the form of ads of curated data is truly frightening.
When the film transitions into the second half, Cross’s story shifts from a grounded, realistic and personal revenge thriller to a spectacle action film mixed with Bond level megalomaniacal locales and theatrics. Putting all of this together from the page is director Jamie Payne who puts the viewer right in the thick of the action. There’s a climactic sequence that takes place in Piccadilly Circus that in the midst of the ensuing chaos kicks the action into high gear, creating an unpredictable, frantic atmosphere of what Robey as a villain is capable of. One by one the dominos fall into place – those who are being blackmailed fear the truth being released more than death and will go to their graves to protect their secrets.
Stepping right back into John Luther is a comfortable Elba. One of the few who can do no wrong whether he’s playing a decade long character of his or a brand-new character, Elba exudes a gruff demeanor with flashes of a tortured soul. Just hearing what Luther went to prison for in the opening of the film, I believe Elba in his portrayal to be capable of such acts. And with the possibility of being the next James Bond in his rearview, who needs that when you have a complicated yet endearing character such as John Luther to keep returning to.
Opposite Elba is the chameleon Andy Serkis. Adding psychopath killer to his long resume as a motion capture actor, Serkis is downright terrifying as Robey. From his expressive features to his haunting silence, Serkis commands the spotlight second to that head of hair Robey has managed to build over his life. Comparatively, Cynthia Erivo balances Elba perfectly as the more levelheaded, logical and calm successor to Luther’s position.
Aside from its 3 outstanding and vulnerable performances, The Fallen Sun doesn’t offer much that will break new ground in the genre. Both character development and plot get sacrificed for the pure shock value of its villains actions but even so, as desensitized as we are these days, what Robey does as a villain looks like child’s play when compared to those he may look to inspiration for. All this because of Robey’s insecurities of teeth grinding and anxiety. All in all, The Fallen Sun gives the impression of a season of the longstanding series, playing out like episodes rather than a feature film – several spots can be seen as episode beginnings and endings but if continued down this path, Luther has the potential to compete as a film franchise with Elba’s charisma leading the way.
Screenplay By: Neil Cross
Directed By: Jamie Payne
Music By: Lorne Balfe
Cinematography: Larry Smith
Starring: Idris Elba, Cynthia Erivo, Dermot Crowley, Andy Serkis, Thomas Coombes, Hattie Morahan
Where to Watch: Netflix
Edited By: Justine Wright
Release Date: March 10, 2023
Running Time: 2 Hours 9 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
Based On: Luther by Neil Cross