Movie Review: “Luther: The Fallen Sun” (2023) “Bigger Isn’t Always Better”

The dashing British actor recently denied rumors that he would play James Bond in an interview. Now he’s returning to the role he made famous nearly a decade ago in “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” a feature-length continuation of the BBC crime drama (in theatres this week and streaming on Netflix March 10), diverting the online furor of his fan-casting to a similarly preposterous role that’s already, ironically, his own.

Elba has created a classic and well-tailored hero in Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, a renegade policeman who investigates London’s grisliest killings. Everything about Luther, from his long wool overcoat to his moral compass, is a shade of grey.

Luther was modeled after Columbo and Sherlock Holmes, squinting and shambling through gruesome murder scenes with his hands in his pockets. Still, Elba’s mercurial screen presence, all rumpled solemnity, and movie-star smoke give the character depth and dimension.

Luther, a larger-than-life protagonist, is the profoundly gloomy investigator who will break any rule if it catches him a killer and whose strict sense of justice puts him in conflict with colleagues. (None of them can make the same claim of composure when dangling a suspect over a balcony to get information out of them.)

luther the fallen sun review
Luther the fallen sun review

Elba is the eternally intriguing film presence who can dive into an archetype and light inner currents of passion, wrath, and anguish without making the obvious decision, without even seeming to lower the character’s ever-present guard. To date, all five “Luther” series are a showcase for the actor at the height of his abilities.

One of the greatest joys of “The Fallen Sun” is watching him confidently and charismatically throw on that trademark coat and return to work. At the beginning of “The Falling Sun,” Luther is in prison, albeit the circumstances of his detention differ from the series five conclusions, in which he was handcuffed by his old police superintendent, Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley).

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read reviews of previous seasons, we have included a link to related content below:

After Luther investigates the disappearance of a young janitor, his latest adversary, a teeth-gnashing ghoul of a tech billionaire played by Andy Serkis, leaks a dossier to the media implicating Luther in a wide range of illegal activities, including breaking, suspect intimidation, tampering with evidence, and bribery. (Luther is guilty as charged, of course, but he has a perfectly logical explanation; the judges only need to listen to him.)

Serkis’ ghoul, David Robey, terrorizes London with a series of elaborate killings, such as the abduction and hanging of eight strangers, who are then arranged in a manner that bursts into flame as the victims’ parents arrive. However, he still finds time to mock Luther for being unable to stop the slaughter.

Luther the fallen sun review

As a kerosene-soaked cellblock riot sequence results in Luther’s transfer to another facility, he responds by breaking out during a prison transport. There is an early indication that “The Fallen Sun” will intensify the series’ propensity for pulp theatrics when we see Luther using a burning mattress as protection while brawling along a corridor full of savage inmates.

While pursued by his old police colleagues, such as replacement DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) and Schenk, consulting for the department as the authority on all things Luther, Luther returns to the rain-soaked streets of London in search of clues about Robey’s next atrocity exhibition.

After the first season of “Luther,” its protagonist, played by Idris Elba, was on the run from the law. Though “The Fallen Sun” is purposefully framed as a cinematic reintroduction for the character, a sense of weariness to this latest runabout feels cumulative. Understanding the detective’s sordid history with a seductive psychopath and potential soulmate Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) and the various supporting players who’ve paid the price for allying themselves with Luther will be of value to viewers curious as to the air of haunted melancholy that huddles over The choices he made in the past still haunt him. He has to deal with the repercussions on his own.

Luther fits perfectly with the film’s dark, gothic depiction of London, where a rogues’ gallery with enough villainous characters to make Batman wince prowls every shadowy alley and unguarded suburban environment. Young moms are abducted by demonic occultists who drain their blood, masked fetishists hide under their beds and silently slip out of sight as the lights go out, and killers in clown masks prey on ladies walking home alone at night.

On February 24, 2023, The Guardian tweeted, “Luther: The Fallen Sun review – grisly violence takes starring role.”

Supercriminals and agents of terror are Luther’s primary foes; they are responsible for turning his city into a Gotham-like urban sprawl of fear and depravity, and they justify Luther’s vigilantism.

Despite his reputation for bringing the humanity of complex animals to life through motion capture, Andy Serkis is just as captivating as a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing, an omniscient one-percenter whose reach will never exceed his grasp. Blackmail ringleader Robey is a ludicrous megalomaniac even before it is revealed that he keeps a Norwegian lair befitting a Bond villain.

This is a not-so-subtle touch that, in keeping with the film’s impressive budget, lifts Luther out of his already-heightened pulp surroundings and into a more winkingly silly action sandbox.

When up against a cartoonishly cruel archvillain like this, Luther’s eventual admission to a reproachful former colleague that he broke the law because he “couldn’t see any other way to do what had to be done” resonates more a hero’s mantra than an admission of past crimes.

Veteran cinematographer Larry Smith bathes the film’s eeriest tableaux of domestic terror in a cold, suffusing twilight. Returning director Jamie Payne (who helmed Series 5) extends the stark and amplified atmosphere of his previous “Luther” installments, even as the action set pieces—one turning Piccadilly Square into a warzone, another leaving London to explore a frozen house of horrors—scale up.

Like in previous films, Luther’s red tie is often the most eye-catching element in the scene. The series creator and sole writer, Neil Cross, crafts “Luther” with a dark and lurid sensibility that recalls the gritty camp of recent DC superhero pictures; Lorne Balfe’s tense and pulsating score furthers this impression.

Clarisse Loughrey tweeted on its official account on February 24, 2023, and wrote-

“LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN makes a far better case for idris elba being the next batman than it does bond.”

However, the actors’ unflappable instincts are essential to the film’s joys, with several returning to roles they’ve played for over a decade. Elba and Dermot Crowley, who plays ex-superintendent Martin Schenk, exchange self-serious cornball lines like seasoned scene partners. They’re pros doing their jobs and have a dirty one ahead of them.

Even though the necessary third-act twist that pairs them up is a little too far-fetched, even by the film’s graphic-novel logic, Erivo also fits comfortably into the equation as a detective initially tasked with tracking down Luther, providing the matter-of-fact gravitas needed to go toe to toe with the hero.

Elba has made no secret of his wish to portray Luther in a series of films, of which this is merely the first. Thus the fact that “The Fallen Sun” feels more episodic than climactic is intentional. A natural continuation for fans, “The Fallen Sun” also provides an entry point for series newcomers and sends the character off in a new direction that playfully acknowledges Elba’s Bond bona fides while asserting (not unconvincingly) that Luther’s world is quite enough. It will soon be available on Netflix alongside the rest of the TV series.

This Friday, February 24, 2023, “Luther: The Fallen Sun” debuts in limited cinemas and on Netflix on March 10.

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