The White House has had a rough year of it, both on and off screen. Thankfully, in real life it’s been mostly political pressures, but on the screen it’s fallen to terrorists, first in Olympus Has Fallen and again in disaster flick specialist Roland Emmerich’s (Godzilla, 2012) White House Down. White House down isn’t quite as serious in its tone as Olympus Has Fallen, opting to take an approach that has a bit more humor sprinkled throughout. It follows the formula to the letter, telegraphing every twist well in advance. It may not hold any surprises, but it’s an entertaining movie that will hold your interest for it’s 137 minute running time.
John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a former soldier and divorced dad serving on security detail for Speaker of the House Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). His daughter Emily (Joey King) makes YouTube videos and is a political history enthusiast, and Cale wants to join the Secret Service and get assigned to the President’s detail. He gets a job interview at the White House, and two passes, one for him and one for his daughter. So, naturally they go to the White House on what will turn out to be one of the worse days in the building’s existence.
Once there, Cale interviews with former flame Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and things don’t go so well. He lies to Emily, and they meet President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) while on the White House tour. In the meantime, plans are afoot, as we see shady looking guys dressed as maintenance workers moving things into place and a retirement party for soon to be departing head of Secret Service Walker (James Woods), who has lost a son in a covert operation in Iran. Sure enough, things turn ugly, as the terrorists set off a bomb in the Capitol Building and then seize the White House. Naturally, Cale must rise to the occasion and comes to the President’s aid, trying to keep him safe and get the hostages and his daughter out of harm’s way. Much gunfire and explosions ensue, all making their way to the predictable outcome.
Writer James Vanderbilt’s (The Amazing Spider-Man) script telegraphs every plot twist from the get go, and those familiar with these action movies built on the Die Hard theme will pick up all of the clues right away. Even though it follows the numbers, the film still works as goofy fun primarily due to the rapport between its two stars, Tatum and Foxx. The two play off each other well, whether it be climbing up an elevator shaft, shooting it out with the bad guys, or trying to make a daring escape in the Presidential limo across the White House lawn. Director Emmerich keeps things moving at a nice pace, and isn’t afraid to try and push some emotional buttons as well (though they are quite obvious and may not really work on viewers). He definitely can stage big action set pieces with the best of them, and White House Down doesn’t disappoint in that respect, as there are plenty of explosions and a crumbling national building to keep action fans happy.
This is simply a popcorn movie, one that won’t tax your brain too much, and if you suspend your disbelief for all of its plot holes, you’re in for a reasonably good time. It never rises to the gravitas that was felt throughout Olympus Has Fallen, but in a way that’s a good thing. After all, both movies have identical themes and nearly identical plots, and its the humor that sets the two apart. Worthy of a rental at least.
White House Down is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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