Four Years After Luther Ended, Idris Elba Hasn’t Lost a Step
A rushed start gives way to great setpieces.
Some cop shows go for realism, others for absurdity. Luther was a show that always straddled the lines. Its villains were extreme — serial killers in masks seemed to grow like weeds in the show’s England — but John Luther (Idris Elba) was always grounded. Sometimes in a zen way, sometimes in the way of a man who’s chosen to let his demons overwhelm him.
His calm would draw the crazed killers in like moths to the light, and he’d have to clean up the mess in a sharp suit. There’s also his sheer size, which makes him magnetic in a drab police office. Neil Cross, the show’s creator, wrote a Luther book in 2011 called The Calling that simply described the Detective Chief Inspector as “a big man with a big walk,” letting the reader’s imagination do the rest.
He’s also a hard man to kill. 13 years after the first episode of Luther aired, and four after the show ended, John Luther is back in Luther: The Fallen Sun, written by Cross and directed by Jamie Payne, who helmed four episodes of Luther’s final season. With Elba back, they’ve created a good approximation of another season.
The opening is rushed, with Cross and Payne eager to get Luther to where they really want the narrative to start. DCI Luther and his boss Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) are investigating a murder that spins out into a search for the witness who called the case in, a young janitor named Callum Aldrich. A sudden threatening phone call caused him to abandon his job, and that’s the last anyone has seen of him.
As Luther begins to search for Callum, a seemingly omnipresent financier begins to watch him. David Robey (Andy Serkis) will do everything in his power to keep Luther from finding Callum, which means exhuming all the dirt from his long career. He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, getting Luther thrown in jail.
All this happens rather quickly, without a sense of how much time has passed or how easy it was to get Luther arrested. But after Luther settles into his new home behind bars, the movie gets its footing. That’s because he’s immediately focused on busting out.
Temporarily freed from Luther’s watchful eye, Robey gets free reign. While fans of the show may miss Luther’s arch-frenemy Alice Morgan, Serkis is clearly game to be as menacing as any of the show’s previous villains. A moment where he’s singing “I’m Coming Out” with his ex-wife Georgette (Tara Fitzgerald), who he’s tortured beyond all recognition, is a particular highlight. Ever since his days as Gollum, Serkis has understood how the slightest movement can build a character. His dancing while covering Diana Ross tells you all you need to know about Robey, a man who keeps an airtight facade that masks a desperate need to be seen.
After getting mocking messages from Robey revealing himself to be Callum’s killer, Luther engineers a prison riot for his escape. This is the movie’s big action sequence, and it makes Luther feel less like a badass and more like a guy barely escaping each fight, with the window for survival getting smaller and smaller with every prisoner. It’s very effective.
Once out he immediately gets back on the case, much to the chagrin of his replacement, DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo). Raine has brought a retired Schenk back into the fold to deal with Luther, hoping the killer will reveal themselves to stop him. Callum’s killer has expanded his web of blackmail, inducing several Londoners to jump off rooftops to keep their secrets safe.
That web eventually extends to the police; Robey tracks down the secrets of several officers, including Raine. Robey starts to expose some of what he’s found online in a livestream called “The Red Bunker,” which quickly becomes must-watch viewing for perverts and sickos all over England.
If parts of Fallen Sun feel rushed, it’s because the movie wants to get to its big setpieces, which absolutely deliver. Luther and Raine form an uneasy truce to take down Robey, one complicated by her own blackmail. The two make their way to the Red Bunker in Estonia, where Robey gleefully promises a “safe space” for everyone who wants to watch torture porn in real time.
This is the stuff Luther has always excelled at: watching perverts take the grandest stage imaginable, with every episode feeling like a boss fight. After a shaky start, Fallen Sun sticks the landing because Cross, Payne, and Elba all trust their character. He’s taken them this far, after all.