Missing Logic: Fallen

Yet another film that could have gone a totally different way if the people in it hadn’t been so staggeringly stupid. (Caution: spoilers)

THE FILM

Fallen is the thriller about a fallen angel starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Elias Koteas – not to be confused with The Prophecy, the thriller about a fallen angel starring Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken and Elias Koteas.

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Fallen has incorruptible cop Washington being tormented by the evil angel Azazel, who can possess bodies by jumping from person to person through touch. Because Azazel’s attempts to possess our Denzel fail, the villainous spirit starts a campaign of harrassment including framing the cop for murder and intimidating his family. Desperate, Washington turns to Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness), the daughter of another cop who appeared to commit suicide in similar circumstances. There his sceptical eyes are opened to the supernatural horror of his situation, as he tries to find a way to defeat the evil spirit.

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THE FLAW

Denzel’s grand plan is to lure Azazel out to the remote cabin knowing that without other people around he can’t possess anyone, so all he has to do is shoot the demon and top himself, thus trapping/killing the spirit which can’t survive for more than a few seconds outside a body.

The trouble is, Embeth’s dad died trying the exact same trick. Sure, Denzel mutters something vague about the other cop not being brave enough or clever enough to pull it off, but we’re told this cop was a highly-decorated hero of the force – does he really think that he made some obvious error in judgement? Or was it just a dumb, stupid plan to start with?

Second of all, Azazel is how many years old? He’s been on this planet for thousands of years, and no doubt many others would have tried to get rid of him before. It should be obvious to anyone that this is the sort of greater power that you really don’t want to be messing with, and if a bullet in the head was enough to stop him, someone would have done it by now.

Thirdly, though we’re playing fast and loose with biblical tradition, the film’s internal logic (such as it is) relies on specific texts from Revelation to tell its story. Under those circumstances, wouldn’t you skip back a few pages and read the bit from the gospel where Jesus deals with a demonic possession? He doesn’t say, “Oh, hey, just kill the guy,” but – and this the crucial bit – drives the demon into some pigs and persuades them to commit suicide. So even though Denzel didn’t see Azazel’s animal possession trick, he should have been aware that it was a possibility.

So instead he goes to all that trouble – including stupidly taunting the stricken angel – loses his own life, reluctantly kills his best friend, and completely fails to foresee the obvious conclusion where Azazel hops into the nearest furry critter and scampers off to find a new victim.

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HOW IT WOULD HAVE ENDED

Pretty much any way other than the way that it did. The minute Denzel was even remotely aware of its supernatural connection he should have dropped the case. He would have seen from Embeth Davidtz that Azazel is like a schoolyard bully who can be distracted and move on if you’re no longer showing any interest. He just had to say, “Fine, I get it: I can’t defeat you so you just get on with being evil and I’ll be running away fast and hiding.”

If that doesn’t work out with his conscience, he could always seek the help of an exorcist priest – but since we’ve established that Azazel can be anyone, anywhere, he’s not going to have a great deal of luck tracking him down unless he really goes looking which – as we’ve also established – is an incredibly bad idea.

His best bet would really be to quit his job and move to another state far away, taking up some unassuming burger-flipping role and living out his days quietly and without fuss. Sure, he wouldn’t be able to stop evil, but then he couldn’t stop evil anyway, and his friends and family would live to thank him for it.

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