Earlier this year, Idris Elba ruled himself out as the next James Bond. Even if he wanted to play the super spy Elba is busy with other commitments…or so he says. Despite that news, his connection to the 007 franchise hasn’t been severed just yet. It has even influenced Elba’s latest film Luther: The Fallen Sun which brings his DCI John Luther character to the big screen and on Netflix.
Luther, BBC’s amazing psychological crime series, ended its run in 2019 with devoted fans wanting to see more of the perpetually tortured, angst-ridden, rule-breaking police detective who has been brilliantly and astutely played by Elba. Unlike on the small screen the character’s path in The Fallen Sun mirrors James Bond’s journey, at times purposely one would think. Just like in License to Kill, Die Another Day, Casino Royal, Skyfall and Spectre in which Bond is forced to become a rogue agent after either losing his 007 status, being disavowed or quitting, Luther’s past catches up with him in The Fallen Sun. He is not only sent to prison for the multitude of professional indiscretions over the years but is stripped of his gun and badge.
The entire shakedown is orchestrated by a Machiavellian millionaire serial killer (Andy Serkis as David Robey) who leverages people’s shameful dirty secrets against them forcing them to do all sorts of insidious things including even offing themselves or others at his command. With his similarly outfitted minions and his palatial hideout Robey comes off as more of a bombastic Bond villain than the usual psychopath Luther matches wits with. He just needs a furry cat in his lap to pet absentmindedly.
Ridiculed by Robey through the use of a remote radio broadcast and shamed by a mother of one of the victims, Luther follows in Bond’s footsteps in Die Another Day and stages a successful prison break. While on the trail of Robey, the past and the present collide with Luther working hand-in-hand with his retired former boss of the Serious and Serial Crime Unit (Dermot Crowley as Martin Schenk) and its new boss DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo). Things take a sinister turn though when we learn that Robey has infiltrated Raine’s investigation with a sly mole and the dastardly Robey kidnaps Raine’s daughter, Anya (Lauryn Ajufo), imprisoning her in his house of torture.
The intentional Bond nods continue while Luther is captured in a death trap, when he declines a CERTAIN drink in a bar and in the grandiose finale in which Luther and Raine square off against Robey and his stooges at his base. The big climax even features a car chase and fight that would be part of any Wednesday for 007.
This over-the-top tone is what clouds over The Fallen Sun. Car chases instead of foot chases, millionaire kingpins instead of neighborhood crazies and grand, imposing death traps are Bond’s trappings not Luther’s. 007 is Captain America fighting for ‘God and Country’. Luther is supposed to be Daredevil or Luke Cage, a ‘boots on the ground’ kind of hero. Luther seems like a fish out of water for much of the movie, a character who doesn’t belong in the scenario that is playing out all around him.
The Fallen Sun is fun for what it is. It just doesn’t seem very authentic for anyone who has watched the television series. What pulls us through all the haughty, heavyweight happenings is Idris Elba. He grounds everything with his very presence. Shit can be imploding all around Elba as it did in The Dark Tower or Beast and as it does here, and Elba remains solid continuing to shine even if he is neck-deep in cinematic manure. It is why he is one of the very best in the business today and would make for a sensational Bond if he ever has the pleasure of serving on her majesty’s secret service. Perhaps then, he would warm up to a cocktail that is shaken and not stirred.