131 Min | Action – Drama – Thriller | September 2013
IMDB Rating: 6.4
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
White House Down Review: Having already blown up the Presidential Palace once in Independence Day, and returning to crash an aircraft carrier into it in 2012, blockbuster maestro Roland Emmerich takes his political sensibilities to the edge with White House Down, a cheese-coated gun-fest that gets by on good looks alone. Aspiring secret serviceman John Cale (Channing Tatum, with a performance somewhere between 21 Jump Street tongue-in-cheek and G.I. Joe action hero) has brought his politically-obsessed daughter Emily (a baby-faced but often impressive Joey King) to the White House for a tour while he tries to secure a job as the President’s top protector. But when a crack team of motive-lacking terrorists compromises the compound, Cale must escort President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, climbing the corporate ladder from gun-toting slave to wise-cracking POTUS in six months) through the devastation and, well, save his nation.
Anyone familiar with Emmerich’s work should know exactly what’s coming, but that doesn’t make the flat moments any more bearable. The labyrinthine interior of the White House almost feels like a character in itself and, despite a disastrous script, Tatum and Foxx manage to haul the film on their natural chemistry. Serving up a counterpunch to our buddy-buddy heroes is Aussie Jason Clarke (coming off a strong turn as Jay Gatsby’s assassin), who makes for a truly detestable villain, along with an equally menacing big name, who turns to the dark side when his personal agenda gets in the way of worldwide supremacy. White House Down never gets convoluted, but does suffer from trying to squeeze too many arcs into a popcorn feature. Evidence of this is everywhere, but it’s best exemplified with an ending straight out of Scooby-Doo. The crime has been solved, the swamp monster caught and everyone is safe – until it turns out the amusement park owner was trying to scare off his customers all along.
When Maggie Gyllenhall’s US agent tells Cale that “it’s not over yet,” the realisation that the story hasn’t stopped trying to dig itself out of a predictable hole makes for a truly deflating experience. The action in White House Down, is bloodless and choppily edited, and the film is so saturated in blind patriotism that one might expect one of the baddies to be pecked to death by a flock of bald eagles at a moment’s notice, but White House Down, in a sort of watered-down delivery of the high-energy fun that was sister film Olympus Has Fallen, just barely manages an entertaining product in spite of its cringe-worthy flaws.