Review: White House Down
While John Cale visits the White House with his daughter, armed militants invade, taking hostages, killing officials, and searching for the President. Cale sneaks off and become is the only hope to save the day, or something like that, and has a chance to reach his dream of being a Secret Service Agent assigned to protecting the President. Not so much ‘Die Hard in the White House,’ as it is ‘The Rock in the White House.’
Who’s in It?
Channing Tatum is our man on a mission, cracking jokes, shooting guns, and winnings the hearts of women everywhere. Jamie Foxx is the President, and thankfully can handle himself too (not like that bum Aaron Eckhart in Olympus Has Fallen, who can’t do anything). Maggie Gyllenhall, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, and James Woods round out a very impressive cast of people who know the right beat to hit.
It’s déjà vu all over again. Not only does Roland Emerich continue to destroy a collection of iconic global buildings as he did in 2012, Independence Day, et al, but we have too the second film of the year in which terrorists take over the White House leaving but a disregarded secret service agent to save the day. Here we go again.
While the opening is familiar –seedy characters exact a sudden, violent siege with help from the inside – and the action set pieces are the same – helicopter attack, falling through windows, car chases – there is a concerted effort to make the characters here charming and sympathetic. Though they aren’t based in reality (none of this is, whatsoever), it makes for a watchable piece of summer fare that doesn’t attempt to be dark or pretend to be serious. It’s about time.
Tatum, possessive of a boyish wit and good looks, doesn’t carry the film alone, though– he sometimes hands it off to Foxx, as if neither is strong enough to do so without the other. Together they can make up a composite of a winning, likeable, and tough protagonist, somewhat smooth, somewhat bumbling. In one way, it’s almost a buddy cop movie, except the two aren’t that much of an odd couple. Both are folksy and surprisingly calm and witty under pressure, and while Cale is the gun-toting hero, Sawyer doesn’t back down from a fight (unlike Eckhart, ahem).
What is particularly interesting though, to be serious for a moment (and only a moment), is the realistic way in which these unrealistic events would unfold through the eyes of the world. Holed up on the inside, our heroes and villains watch the news just as everyone else does, with newsmen in helicopters trying to get a visual, and hordes of reporters staked out on the lawn.
It is very much a film of this day and age, as Cale’s daughter uses her phone to document the terrorists and upload it to Youtube. Of course the media gets a hold of it fast, and of course the young girl’s name is attached to it, and then of course some bad guys are on the inside watching too.
It’s an interesting element, adding some perspective and innovative twists to a film that wants to be so badly a 90’s action flick. The cast is enjoyable, especially Clarke as a villian, and all know the sort of silly action movie in which they are starring. It’s fun, a bit too long, but not too unnerving, and the right amount of smart and stupid. And while Foxx and Tatum are entertaining, the film is at its best when they are running wild together.
Should You See It?
If you saw Olympus Has Fallen, you can clear out the bad taste with something substantially better. If Fast Six was too ridiculous, and 2 Guns looks too idiotic, this is your best bet for action this summer.
A tour guide who clearly loves Roland Emerich says, “The White House was famously blown up in Independence Day.” Har har.