Idris Elba bids adieu to the character with another charismatic, blistering turn.
Idris Elba has been playing DCI John Luther for over a decade. A mixture of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, he’s a violent, angry, dedicated detective, doing whatever necessary to catch the grisliest criminals. Finally, after six seasons, Luther finds himself in a feature film, Luther: The Fallen Sun, with many of the trappings of his British series. A horrific serial killer is on the loose. The anti-hero detective must stop him, but there’s a major obstacle in his way. Specifically, he’s staring out at the world through the bars of a jail cell.
Written by series creator Neil Cross and directed by TV episode mainstay Jamie Payne, the thriller sees its protagonist jailed for his previous actions in solving murders. For over a decade, he tampered with evidence, intimidated and attacked witnesses, used excessive force, and wore the same gray coat. Not even strutting around crime scenes with a swagger reserved for agents above his pay grade could keep him on the streets. However, with a serial killer obsessed with infiltrating the privacy of “good” people’s lives out there, Luther has no choice but to escape prison to solve the crime.
Andy Serkis is a formidable opponent as David Robey. He’s a wealthy criminal, tapping into citizens’ homes and secrets through the devices surrounding us. Communicates through common technology, Robey selects victims struggling with shame, focusing on what they fear sharing. He finds depravity in everyday people, using guilt to fuel mass suicide. Like much of the TV series, Robey’s crimes will likely shock some viewers. The violence can be sickening. The evil within Luther’s world is palpable and constant.
Elba brings a continued gravitas to this role. He smolders his way through 129 minutes, remaining the series’ greatest asset. His moral grayness remains his defining quality. He’s near-perfect in this role, better as Luther than he could be at Bond, at Holmes, at any other detective showrunners and directors might want him to play. He brings a specific level of confidence, pride in his skills, humility for his past actions, and intense violence reserved for vigilante justice. While Luther: The Fallen Sun dials back on that aspect ever so slightly, it remains a worthy-enough sendoff.
The supporting cast of Serkis, Cynthia Erivo as newcomer DCI Odette Raine, and Dermot Crowley as old friend Martin Schenk each give sturdy performances. Serkis, in particular, goes above and beyond in his maniacal portrayal. As good as Elba is, neither he nor the film entirely coheres without those actors’ work.
[Elba] smolders his way through 129 minutes, remaining the series’ greatest asset.
Creator Cross knows the character and the world. He understands the formula and uses it well, crafting a strong, if not unremarkable, narrative. The script understands the need to center Elba’s Luther for the film to be successful. The third act doesn’t hold up to the rest of the plotting but remains exciting. Watching Elba and Serkis navigate the circus the latter manufactured is fascinating. And the commentary on the perversion of humanity is noted, even if it’s a bit ham-handed.
Likely, Luther: The Fallen Sun will end the story of John Luther. Off-camera, he’ll continue solving crimes, hopefully with a bit more tact and discretion, but the audience won’t be with him. Those viewers who joined him on these hunts will likely leave satisfied after 13 years of watching one of television’s most hardened, likable detectives. Newcomers will find the formula well-trodden, but effective. Elba and Serkis give more of themselves than necessary, pushing the film above the middling fare it could’ve been. As a result, Elba finishes his run as Luther with another crime solved, another criminal caught, and another entry in his case for world’s coolest, if not best, detective. Elba shouldn’t have to play Luther again, but if it happens, let’s welcome it.
Luther: The Fallen Sun breaks out on Netflix on March 10.