Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Genre: Action/ Thriller
Former soldier John Cale (Tatum) takes his daughter on a tour of The White House, while also attending a job interview for working in the secret service as a guard for the President (Foxx). He does not get the job, but avoids telling his daughter. Unfortunately, while Cale is there The White House is under attack and taken control of by an enemy that is extremely close to home. Finding himself alone and outnumbered, Cale is placed in a situation when he must save the president, his daughter and pretty much his country.
Once again it is that age old habit of Hollywood churning out two extremely similar films at the same time! First it was Gerard Butler in the wrong place at the wrong time in Olympus Has Fallen which was a very violent and way too serious shameless Die Hard rip off that was so terrible it was funny, and not in a good way! Now it is the turn of good old Roland Emmerich to destroy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over two hours (instead of the few seconds it took him in Independence Day, and I am afraid that film is mentioned as an in joke at one point).
Thankfully White House Down, though not exactly a masterpiece, is most definitely an improvement on Olympus Has Fallen. This being a Roland Emmerich film we have the usual patriotism and cheesy character arcs. In this case our protagonist in the form of Channing Tatum has a difficult relationship with his daughter, does not get the job he wants and is basically labelled as unreliable and untrustworthy as well as being accused of never finishing anything he starts. Does he prove his doubters wrong and patch things up with his daughter? Well, I cannot say as that would obviously be a spoiler, though a perhaps a lose definition of the word in this case!
Once we get all the usual cheesy textbook Emmerich ‘character development’ out of the way we then get a huge list of characters, situations and even the use of Beethoven that is blatantly copied from Die Hard. However, in an age when Blockbusters are rarely original, what for me works in White House Down’s favour is that it is actually fun. While Olympus Has Fallen was beyond stoic in how serious it took itself, White House Down never takes itself too seriously and thank God too!
Once Tatum and Foxx join forces the two of them share some great on screen chemistry and great lines in equal measure to make White House Down work as almost a great buddy movie. Though he is never going to be the greatest of actors, I find Tatum to be a very likeable screen presence. I discovered in 21 Jump Street that Tatum has a knack for good comic timing and here he not only looks the part, but is likable and funny. Foxx too is on excellent form, it is just a shame the excellent supporting cast (Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke) are sidelined, but they certainly get their moments and deliver the goods when needed.
White House Down is a film that ups in pace and action as the narrative develops, and this is both a good and bad thing in my view. As the set pieces get more expensive and ridiculous the film certainly always entertains, but this allows lazy clichés and beyond mature cheese to creep in and the excellent Tatum/Foxx relationship which made the film such good fun is severely compromised. I know Emmerich likes spending a lot of money and really likes blowing things up, but if James Vanderbilt’s script focussed a little more on the bromance in the final third than big bangs that are expensive in cost but cheap in thought process then White House Down could have been even better.
All that said, the plot has enough twists and the action is always big but fun that for all of its 130 minutes White House Down is as vacuous and shallow a blockbuster anyone will see, but it is never less than extremely entertaining.
As a side note, I did find it refreshing that the enemy in White House Down was internal and not a nasty foreigner, particularly as this is an Emmerich film. Usually in these films us nasty Brits cop it as the villain.
White House Down is as daft as Olympus Has Fallen, but thankfully it is actually aware of it and embraces it. With increasingly big bangs and great chemistry between Tatum and Foxx, this is forgettable mindless entertainment of the highest order.
If you need reminding of how terrible Olympus Has Fallen was, click here to read my review