Film Review: Luther – The Fallen Sun (2023)

Luther: The Fallen Sun proves a staggeringly misguided continuation of the TV franchise

“You couldn’t bear it, not being in the centre of things”

Was anyone really calling out for more Luther? After an iconic first series, you could fairly easily make the case that this psychological crime thriller has delivered diminishing returns ever since, Neil Cross’ writing too in thrall to the unerring arrogance of Idris Elba’s titular lone wolf detective. It is notable that for a franchise, the TV show retained precious few recurring characters, only Dermot Crowley’s Martin Schenk and Michael Smiley’s techie Benny Silver managing to cling on for all five seasons.

And with Luther: The Fallen Sun, its first cinematic venture, those issues are further magnified. Benny is MIA so there’s only Schenk as a connection to the TV show and whilst I do appreciate that there’s the need to create a story that works for an entry-level audience as well as returning viewers, the fact that there’s little in the Luther universe aside from Luther himself is a big problem. Particularly if you’re not completely sold on where this character has gone, given that the film offers up more of his Messianic selfishness.

We start off with a puzzling retconning of the end of the fifth series where Luther was arrested, ostensibly necessary for storytelling purposes as serial killer David Robey (a gurning Andy Serkis) is revealed as the mastermind behind his downfall. For reasons best known to himself, Robey taunts the parents of several of his historic victims by burning their corpses dramatically, including the one case Luther worked on, and despite there manifestly being several other detectives in the same position, a cat and mouse game emerges between Robey and Luther.

So we have to suffer through a puerile jailbreak, the introduction of a new police team who Luther summarily ignores plus a new sidekick (Cynthia Erivo) who abandons all their training to follow him blindly, and a complete refusal to accept that anything can be gained by working with other people. There’s always been an arrogance to Luther but something has metastasised here into the ridiculous – the complete lack of characterisation for anyone, the policeman who takes time to hero-worship Luther as he lies dying, Luther wandering around the Arctic Circle in just a natty light overcoat…

Hattie Morahan does her best as the mother of Robey’s victim who Luther never caught, but as the only real emotional anchor in the whole story, it isn’t anywhere near enough to make an audience – whether new or returning – invest here. The complete lack of emotional stakes for Luther demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what made the TV show work, one can only assume the pound signs of Netflix’s budget caused intoxicating blindness, and the final laughable note is pure fan-service for star and writer. Hopefully this sun never rises again.

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