Deep into the second half of Luther: The Fallen Sun (directed by Jamie Payne and written by series creator Neil Cross), we see fan favourite character Detective Sergeant Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) delivering a typically insightful one-liner. He tells John Luther (Idris Elba), “The tragedy is that you’re a much better man than you’ve ever allowed yourself to become.”
This is a good way of understanding what drives Luther, a cop who cannot help doing the best things in the worst possible way. The cost of his rash and impulsive decision-making is usually borne by the people who care about him — family, friends and as long-term Luther fans will know, junior colleagues. The Fallen Sun is a new two-hour film recently released on Netflix, a direct sequel to the BBC show Luther’s five seasons. The story’s focus is the collateral damage, the human cost of Luther’s extra-legal methods of catching killers.
The Big Bad this time around is a wealthy serial killer called David Robey (Andy Serkis), a blackmailer of rare will and resources who manipulates people using their best-kept secrets. At the beginning of the story, Robey uses a cop on his payroll to get Luther convicted and imprisoned for all his past criminal conduct (and the show is littered with these instances, it has to be said). With the detective behind bars, Robey threatens to pull off a macabre, live-streamed killing spree — unless, of course, Luther breaks out of prison and catches up with him first.
Renegade ex-cop hunting down serial killer in London against a ticking clock is not exactly mould-breaking stuff but Elba, Serkis and co. make it work with spirited performances. It also helps that the film is technically on solid ground, with chase sequences and combat scenes being expertly choreographed (Luther’s prison break sequence, for instance, would not be out of place in a James Bond or Mission Impossible film).
Serkis in particular is devastatingly good as the serial killer dripping with malevolent glee. The British actor’s worldwide fame as the face of motion capture technology (thanks to his work in fantasy franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes) sometimes makes it easy to forget that he’s a brilliant, intensely theatrical performer who fills up a scene with his presence. His scenes with Luther are outstanding, none more so than the high-stakes climax where Serkis shows off his masterful voice modulation.
Elba, too, is reliable as ever as the moody genius Luther. His weariness and the fact that he has literally nothing left to lose are painfully clear in everything he does. Elba’s wounded eyes, his trademark Luther hunch and his easy-on-the-ears drawl do a lot of the heavy lifting for The Fallen Sun.
Nothing new about Luther’s past
I was disappointed, however, that the film didn’t tell us anything new about Luther’s past — perhaps this is material saved for another sequel? Cynthia Erivo, whose star is on the rise after a string of high-profile roles recently (including the Disney live-action remake of Pinocchio last year), also does a fine job as Detective Chief Inspector Odette Raine, Schenk’s successor who is forced to work with Luther against her wishes.
Closer home, Ajay Devgn had starred in Rudra, Hotstar’s official remake of Luther, with decidedly mixed results. Though Devgn did better than most of his recent performances, Rudra was ultimately a failure because of its weak screenplay. The show couldn’t transpose the wry humour and London atmospherics of Luther on to the Mumbai underworld, and this made the final product patchy and ill-conceived.
The Fallen Sun isn’t quite a misfire in that vein, and that’s largely down to its talented cast papering over the cracks in the script. Watch it for Elba and Serkis. And if the film nudges you towards the original show (also streaming on Netflix), nothing like it.
The writer and journalist is working on his first book of non-fiction.