Netflix UK film review: Luther: The Fallen Sun
Ivan Radford | On 18, Mar 2023
Director: Jamie Payne
Cast: Idris Elba, Cynthia Erivo, Andy Serkis
“I’m still a copper.” “No you’re not. Not anymore.” That’s the sound of Idris Elba’s Luther returning to our screens in Netflix’s gritty new film. Following on from the fifth season of the BBC drama, the feature-length spin-off might sound like it’s only something for existing fans who have binged the lot, but what’s exciting about Netflix’s project is that it’s more interested in being the exact opposite.
The film catches up with the perma-coated detective as he’s behind bars, disgraced and dismissed as corrupt. But Luther has made a promise to a mother (Hattie Morahan) to find her son, who has gone missing, and when he gets wind of the boy’s whereabouts, he springs himself out to set things right. What he stumbles into is a web of blackmail and dark deeds, orchestrated by a vicious villain (Andy Serkis) who turns people’s always-online existence against them – and preys on the depraved urges of other voyeuristic viewers.
To say that the film has a bleak view of humanity is an understatement, with Neil Cross’ script even outdoing John Luther’s own jaded view of the world. That, of course, won’t come as much of a surprise to longtime Lutherites, and the film delivers on the promise of getting more Luther on our screen by doubling down on the nastiness that goes with him. It’s a shame, then, that in this concentrated dose, outside of a longform series, the graphic horrors feel a little too harsh – and the would-be cutting-edge cyberthriller components feel a little too familiar.
But Jamie Payne (The Hour, The Alienist) knows how to direct a set piece with a gripping sense of propulsion and, reuniting with Cross, does a brilliant job of keeping the streamlined script in motion – from a haunting sequence in Piccadilly Circus to an on-foot chase sequence to a brutal punch-up, not to mention the prison break that lights the fuse in the first place.
The cast certainly keep up with the pace, with Dermot Rowley making a welcome return as Luther’s former boss, DSU Martin Schenk, and Cynthia Erivo seamlessly stepping into his shoes as tough new DSU Odette Raine. Andy Serkis, meanwhile, gives the Bond villain performance he’s always had in him, singing, cackling and smiling with a genuinely creepy energy. But there’s only one star in this show, and Elba knows it: he’s brilliant as the noble but nefarious copper, effortlessly tapping back into his imposing anger, his unflinching morals and – in one brilliant touch – his disbelief that someone hasn’t heard of him.
Elba’s swaggering, weighed-down presence makes sure that there’s never a dull moment, and ultimately leaves us wanting more of Luther on our screens. Judging by an inspired final flourish that knowingly pivots Elba away from James Bond, Netflix already has a film franchise in mind for him.