Synopsis: In Columbia Pictures’ White House Down, Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group. Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it’s up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country.
Release Date: June 28, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
What makes a summer action film tick? Is it the hero, the action, the bad guys? For that matter what makes a film that slides goofy one-liners amongst super serious action scenes work? Don’t ask White House Down, because it won’t have an answer for you.
The film’s story relies on an age-old formula – aspiring serviceman (in this case a capitol police worker looking to make the leap to Secret Service) finds himself caught in the middle of a terrorist plot and uses his skills as a reckless do-gooder to bring those involved to justice – one that in this case is full of cliches. The film also chooses a setting that we’ve already seen under duress earlier this year – in Olympus Has Fallen, which is a much better action film than this by the way. And finally, it uses archetypes that are so cookie cutter perfect – the absentee father, the self-righteous bad guy, the no-nonsense authority figure – that any backstory is perfunctory.
Nevertheless, taking White House Down simply at face value (read: not comparing it to Olympus Has Fallen) it’s hard to find anything worth recommending. The film delivers many of the story beats moviegoers will come to expect, and it tries to set up a global circumstance around a very small-scale story, but it fails at it’s key goal of being compelling, let alone entertaining, at nearly every turn. There’s nothing particularly interesting about the characters, the story follows a predictable path of bad guy ulterior motive after bad guy ulterior motive, and when it’s all said and done nothing about White House Down resembles the type of “ride” the filmmakers hoped it would be.
That being said, there will be some who come away from White House Down well and truly satisfied â-having enjoyed the experience Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, et al have delivered. That isn’t to say they should have enjoyed it, just that the amount of pandering the film does will likely sway some towards a favorable reaction. Tatum and Foxx are so likeable, and the bad guys are so…unlikeable, that some audiences will get by just watching the good guys outsmart the bad guys. As much as the film keeps to a very generic action blockbuster formula, it’s not incomprehensible. And while it does get a little too silly at times, it has its heart in the right place. For me, though, the movie is too bland to be considered a worthwhile summer blockbuster.
Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012) takes what is ostensibly Die Hard in the White House and chooses instead to pare down his talents. To neuter a long history of bombastic, destructive action sequences to the point they feel run of the mill. There’s a few brief moments of excitement peppered throughout the nearly 2 hour film, but not enough to be worth recommending, and certainly not of the high bar most have come to expect from Emmerich.
In fact, the action in White House Down looks really cheap, which is surprising considering the inflated budgets Emmerich is used to working with. The stunt work in the hand-to-hand fights is fine, and the shootouts are competent shootouts, but a lot of the bigger, iconic moments in the film look half done. It’s strange to think that a director with the bravado to destroy the White House in some of the most insane ways possible (aliens, tidal wave) can’t deliver his typical outrageous action when working with his favorite landmark.
As far as the film’s stars are concerned, Channing Tatum is serviceable as our hero, he cracks wise when necessary and bares his sculpted arms to keep things feeling very “macho,” but his charisma is otherwise wasted on the lackluster action. Jamie Foxx similarly struggles in a script that asks him to do very little. Both have a good rapport and you can tell that with a stronger script they might have been able to feed off each other a little better, but such is the case with missed opportunities. All the same, Channing Tatum plays the typical Channing Tatum role, and Jamie Foxx does the same, so die hard fans of either actors will likely enjoy the film’s action more than others.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Roland Emmerich
- Screenwriter(s): James Vanderbilt
- Cast: Channing Tatum (Cale)Jamie Foxx (President Sawyer)Maggie Gyllenhaal (Finnerty) Jason Clarke (Raphelson)James Woods (Walker)
- Editor(s): Adam Wolfe
- Cinematographer: Anna Foerster
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Harald Kloser
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA