Hollywood seems to be obsessed with blowing up the White House. From Independence Day and Mars Attacks, to the more recent 2012, having one of the most iconic buildings in America destroyed by enemy invaders or natural disaster is an easy way to rile up patriotic moviegoers. This year has seen two releases in which the basic idea of the White House’s destruction is padded out to feature length, Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down.
White House Down, directed by Roland Emmerich, stars Channing Tatum as John Cale, a father hoping to impress his daughter (Joey King) and ex-wife (Rachelle Lefevre) by getting a job protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). While on a tour of the presidential house, a group of terrorists begin their attack. Cale is separated from his daughter and becomes responsible for the safety of the President. Much action and many explosions follow as Cale attempts to rescue both the president and his daughter.
Foxx plays a very cool President, as friendly and wise as we could hope of the most powerful person in the free world. Tatum is obviously comfortable in his role and will likely continue to be popular. The casting of baddies is also pretty good. Jason Clarke leads a rough and tough band that does look quite intimidating.
White House Down is a feast of CGI, action sequences and gunfights. Ignoring a few lulls, the fighting continues at a brisk pace that becomes almost senseless. There are some spectacular scenes featuring explosions that would impress Michael Bay, and others in which the CGI looks a bit unconvincing. The film looks nice, but ultimately remains too bland and formulaic.
One of the best action sequences was an armoured-car chase through the grounds of the White House. This scene features heavily in the film’s advertising, which brings me to one of my main gripes with the movie: As is the norm, the most exciting scenes were those shown in the trailers. Because of this, and its cliché plot, watching the trailer is enough to give you a clear picture of the whole film. White House Down tries to be too serious at times. The family drama seems particularly shoehorned in, not to mention the main villain’s absurd reasoning and an ending that would have fit better in an episode of Scooby-Doo.
White House Down is fun, however. There is a certain pleasure to watching films such as this, especially with friends. One of Foxx’s lines as he attacks the main villain made me want to stand up and clap simply because it was so cheesy. Seeing the President of the USA shoot a rocket launcher out of the back of a moving car was another great moment. If the film dedicated itself more to these ridiculous moments without burdening itself with forced drama it would have been more enjoyable.
White House Down is a flawed yet somewhat entertaining movie. It is a film best taken with a group of friends and a not-so-serious attitude.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Rating out of 10: 5