Luther is back, and by god we’ve missed him. The last time Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther graced our screens was more than four years ago, when the fifth and final series aired in January 2019. After that, the showrunners vowed they wouldn’t return for a sixth series and would be letting our favourite semi-bent copper get some very necessary rest.
Except - surprise! It wasn’t for long, because creator Neil Cross then decided that Luther would be resurrected for a feature length film instead...
This time around, things are bigger, badder and even grittier than before. Luther is tracking down another murderer, he’s breaking out of prison, he’s saving even more lives and he’s standing on much higher buildings to do his brooding. He’s also basically Bond - but we’ll get to that.
Luther: The Fallen Sun picks up shortly after season five, when Luther is fresh from his latest run-in with a twisted, prolific serial killer (no shortage of those in London, apparently) and moving on to his next case. He starts looking into the disappearance of a teenage boy, Callum Aldrich, who was being blackmailed by David Robey, played by Andy Serkis on very creepy form.
One thing leads to another and Robey becomes Luther’s newest tormentor. He gets Luther thrown into jail because, as he and the audience knows, Luther can solve any case, even if he gets shot, stabbed or has his family members murdered in the process.
This is where the fun begins. Luther breaks out of prison with a classically Lutherish ease and sets to work tracking Robey down. But Serkis’ killer is not like the underground, small-time murderers of Luther seasons past; no, he’s in the big leagues: he kills multiple people, over periods of years. He has an agenda, too, which feels uncannily similar to that of a… Bond villain.
This is the overwhelming feeling of Luther: The Fallen Sun – it is Idris Elba’s go at Bond, except he’s grumbly, lumbering DCI John Luther instead of swish Agent 007. Some of the comparisons are easy to draw: there is a Tube tunnel chase, scenes set in a weird country home in a tundra landscape (a first for Luther, who doesn’t usually make it past the M25) and a baddie with a motive that feels more like world domination than the previous series’ plain old murder. There’s even a direct nod to Bond when Luther enters a bar and is offered a martini, which he then turns down – subtle.
Once again, Elba completely embodies the character of Luther, slipping back into the role like a glove. His one liners hit and his on-the-ground investigation scenes are as compelling as ever, but as the plot advances he feels out of place, like he’s doing a strange cameo in another franchise.
The third act of the movie, where Serkis’ skin-crawling villain enacts his master plan, is completely ridiculous and takes away from any of the trust established in the film. Serkis starts off eerily theatrical (he sings Diana Ross, he kisses victims on the forehead, he shouts “woohoo” when things are going to plan) but his campy, creepy brilliance loses colour when it’s blown out on a bigger scale. He’d have been a great villain for the show, but unfortunately he was cast in the Luther/Bond multiverse film, so it doesn’t quite work. Schenk is as brilliant as always, but every other character just feels like background noise.
Ultimately, we leave Luther with the same taste of dissatisfaction that we left series five, which is a shame. On the plus side, there’s enough of the good, old Luther-ish stuff here to more than redeem it. Settle in for the ride.
Luther: The Fallen Sun is in cinemas now; it will air on Netflix from March 10