As a fan of both the TV show LUTHER (2010-2019) and of Idris Elba, I was excited to watch LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN (2023), a new Netflix original movie and follow-up to the TV series.
I was not disappointed.
Sure, the movie isn’t perfect, but there is a lot to like about LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN, especially for Idris Elba fans.
The plot is pretty straightforward. When a young man disappears under mysterious circumstances, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) promises the man’s mother that he will bring her son back to him, but serial killer David Robey (Andy Serkis, in a deliciously over-the-top performance) has other ideas. Robey is more than just a serial killer. He’s also a master of technology and uses this mastery to find compromising material on seemingly anyone he wants, as there is so much information available out there in the cloud. He uses this information to blackmail people into doing what he wants, in this case making sure that John Luther is taken off the streets, which isn’t difficult because Luther has always been a problematic detective, often taking the law into his own hands to solve crimes. This time with Robey pulling the strings, the law strikes back, and Luther is arrested and sent to prison.
But Robey being the showman that he is, doesn’t leave Luther alone and sends him a recording of the young man’s death to taunt the detective. Not a bright move, Mr. Serial Killer, because Luther decides that he has to break out of prison and track down this man on his own, which is exactly what he does.
The rest of the movie follows Luther as he not only tries to track down Robey but also has to evade the police who are aggressively hunting him down, led by DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo). Along the way, Luther turns to his old boss, the retired Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) for help. As Luther closes in on Robey, the depths of the serial killer’s plans become known and the stakes rise as Raine’s daughter is also kidnapped.
LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN gets off to somewhat of a rocky start, as the plot point of Luther going to prison is sloppily and quickly told with very little detail provided. Robey tells his police contact he wants Luther taken care of, and the next thing you know the detective is in prison. I also thought this was largely a wasted plot point. Andy Serkis creates such a despicable character in David Robey, that a straight story pitting Luther against him would have worked for me just fine. I know having Luther break out of prison adds the additional story element of Luther also evading the police, but this didn’t really add all that much to the story. The most interesting part of the plot is having Luther take on Robey.
Plus, Luther’s escape from prison is also quickly handled. And neither of these plot points, Luther going to prison and then easily escaping, are all that believable.
However, once Luther is out of prison, the film takes off and just gets better and better. It’s anchored by two solid performances, by Idris Elba and Andy Serkis, and it has a very exciting story.
What’s fun about Idris Elba’s performance as John Luther, both in the TV series and here in this movie, is that he plays Luther as a guy who has no qualms about breaking the law to get the job done, but he is not a ruffian. He’s a sincere, soft-spoken man who is able to reach people and earn their trust. Of course, his strength, and the center of his brilliance as a detective, is he possesses the ability to see people, to read them, to know their intentions. But when it comes to hunting down criminals, he’s ruthless. It’s an interesting dynamic for a character, and Elba nails it.
Elba is also still very convincing as a tough guy cop who can fight and take down multiple threats at a time.
Andy Serkis has a field day as serial killer David Robey. It’s an over-the-top performance, the type where he makes Robey love what he is doing, and he takes great delight in hurting people. It ends up being an immensely disturbing performance, one where you will be rooting for Luther to hunt down and stop this guy. Serkis, who’s most famous for his motion capture roles, from Gollum in THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and Caesar in the PLANET OF THE APES reboots, has also been in a ton of other movies and seems to show up everywhere these days, from the STAR WARS TV show ANDOR (2022) to playing Alfred in THE BATMAN (2022). He’s been in the STAR WARS movies and in the Marvel superhero films, but seldom has he played a character as abhorrent as David Robey. In addition to Idris Elba’s performance, Serkis’ work here is also a major reason to see this movie.
Cynthia Erivo is also very good as DCI Odette Raine, who finds herself tasked with the double whammy of having to track down both Luther and Robey, and in Luther’s case, knowing that by stopping him she may be losing her best chance to catch Robey.
I liked Dermot Crowley when he played Martin Schenk on the show, and he is just as good here in the movie, enjoying a lot of memorable scenes. He makes no secret to either side about what he is doing. Luther knows that Schenk is also helping Raine, and Raine knows that Schenk is also helping Luther. It’s a really interesting dynamic that these three characters share in this movie, and Crowley has fun playing this sly, wise, and ultimately very important character. Crowley is a veteran character actor who has also been notable in such films as THE WONDER (2022) and THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017).
With the exception of the plot point of sending Luther to prison and then having him escape from prison, I really enjoyed the screenplay by Neil Cross, who created the LUTHER TV series. As I said, he makes Robey such a horrifying character that you just can’t wait for Luther to catch him, and he’s so formidable that you’re not even sure that will happen. There are some truly dark and horrifying scenes in LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN, from the way Robey taunts his victims’ families to a very unsettling sequence in Piccadilly Circus. It definitely earns its R rating. And it doesn’t rely on a lot of CGI blood and guts, which often look fake and detract from the horror. Instead, it relies on emotions and watching people react to the horrors, which is very effective.
There are also a couple of very exciting and intense chase sequences, some notable fight scenes, and lots of tension and drama. Director Jamie Payne handles all of it well.
And Robey’s master plan is quite disturbing and sadly, incredibly realistic. It’s not difficult to believe something like this really happening in this day and age of people’s access to technology and willingness to spend money to watch what Robey was offering. The ending also really works. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the edge of my seat as much as I was during the final reel of this one. Intense stuff!
I really enjoyed LUTHER: THE FALLEN SUN. It’s a worthy follow-up to the successful LUTHER TV show, and yet another showcase of the talents of Idris Elba, with fine supporting work by Andy Serkis as one very despicable villain.
I give it an enthusiastic three stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful