Luther: The Fallen Sun review
British TV programmes have a long history of film adaptations. Yet whether we’re talking Dad’s Army, Steptoe & Son and The Likely Lads, or Ali G, The Inbetweeners and Mr Bean, there’s one thing they have in common: they’re all comedies.
For whatever reason, British dramas rarely – if ever – make the transition from the small to big screen. Idris Elba’s maverick Luther bucks the trend here in Luther: The Fallen Sun, albeit its time in selected cinemas was rather limited. Now streaming on Netflix, viewers will have to make do with watching this big-screen version back on a smaller screen.
Lovers of the BBC crime drama will be pleased to hear that The Fallen Sun is a full 129 minutes of no-holds barred action. Okay, perhaps some of the holds are barred, but this is still a mostly thrilling way to spend two and a bit hours of your time.
Once more, the intuitive and determined DCI John Luther is operating on the edges of the law in an obsessive hunt for a particularly wicked serial killer that uses blackmail, technology and a vast criminal network to achieve his dastardly goals.
There are just enough epic drone shots of London, chases and fights to elevate proceedings to movie level. Cut one or two of the more ambitious scenes, however, and you’re left with what would essentially feel like a three-part series smashed into one.
At least that would be true were it not for the casting of Cynthia Erivo and Andy Serkis in the two main supporting roles. Erivo plays DCI Odette Raine, the new boss of the Serious and Serial Crime Unit. A no-nonsense pro, she’s not having any of Luther’s renegade larks. While the Widows star doesn’t hold back with what she has to work with, her character does feel a little underwritten and lightweight.
Serkis has plenty of fun as Luther’s nemesis – a psychopathic, perverse and sadistic millionaire serial killer and general criminal mastermind. He hams it up wonderfully, in a coiffured wig that’s almost as large and noticeable as his rather theatrical performance.
Make no mistake, though. This is The Idris Elba Show. The 50-year-old brings all the grit, glamour and charisma that he has in spades to the role, just as he did in the five television series. Here, he’s assigned to investigate a murder before the killer makes some calls and gets our man thrown in jail for his litany of previous law breaking. In prison, Luther realises that the only way the crazed killer’s getting caught is if he breaks out and hunts him down personally. If you want a job done properly… that’s right. You’ve got to do it yourself.
When some of the action scenes here get going, you can see why Elba has long been touted as a replacement for Daniel Craig as James Bond. Of course, his age makes him a pretty unlikely candidate now, but he still has what it takes. There’s something quite 007-y about The Fallen Sun, from its intriguing name, to the impressive set pieces, the dogged determination, skills and violence of its protagonist and borderline ludicrous bad guy. There are no tuxedos, though. It’s long scratchy-looking overcoats all the way.
The film doesn’t exactly take liberties with the mythos created in the television series. However, it does tweak one or two things, rejigging the canon slightly, in order to make its story and motivations work. In the storytelling trade it’s known as a ‘retcon’ or ‘retroactive continuity’ – the retelling of past events in order to make future works fit and make sense. It’s a literary device beloved by authors for centuries, from Conan Doyle to modern day comic book writers. Luther creator and writer Neil Cross employs it here quite effectively, the results likely to jar only the most ardent and receipt-keeping super-fan of the show.
The film’s middle act is its strongest, with a particularly gruesome and memorable scene in Piccadilly Circus its standout scene. It’s a little slow to get going and weighed down somewhat by exposition and its final scene goes a little over the top. That said, it’s a largely satisfying, if slightly ridiculous, ending.
Altogether, Luther: The Fallen Sun is a success. It’s a dead cert that fans of Idris Elba and Luther will enjoy this fast-paced, scaled-up affair no end. Whether it’ll win Neil Cross’s woollen trench coat-wearing antihero any new fans remains to be seen.
Have you watched Luther: The Fallen Sun on Netflix yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!