IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME:131 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
John Cale is a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson after Cale saved Raphelson’s nephew’s life during a tour in Afghanistan. Cale is struggling to develop a better relationship with his daughter Emily, who has a strong enthusiasm for politics. Though lying to her about getting a job with the Secret Service, he takes her on a tour of the White House. At the same time, U.S. President James Sawyer proposes a controversial peace treaty between allied countries to remove military forces from the Middle East. Suddenly, the White House is put on lockdown when a bomb destroys the dome. Mercenaries who were disguised as video technicians start killing off most of the Secret Service and take everyone hostage except for Cale, who has to rescue not only his daughter but the President….
The commercial failure of White House Down has been put down by some to do with the fact that it’s overtly and unashamedly Liberal Democrat-leaning in its politics, action movies supposedly appealing more to those on the Right then on the Left. I think it’s more simple than that. People had already seen Die Hard in the White House a few months before and didn’t want to pay to see it all over again when Olympus Has Fallen was quite satisfactory. White House Down really is very similar, with even an endangered kid caught in the action and some scenes and situations virtually the same. The chief differences are far less violence as befits its rating, far more cribs from Die Hard, the president actually joining the hero early on taking on the bad guys, said president clearly representing Obama, and the bad guys being of very different origin.
No, they’re not the faintly believable North Koreans. Instead they’re a bunch of right-ring nutters working for “the industrial-military complex” who want to….well, I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s all pretty ridiculous. The Republicans in this film are either cowards, warmongers or traitors, while the Democrats are the peace-loving keepers of humanity. Meanwhile Obama is glorified so much it becomes sickening. The political element is incredibly overt, far more than is comfortable in what is supposedly escapist hokum. If you’re happy to ignore all this and just enjoy White House Down as a switch-your-brain-off action movie, it still really is still quite bad for its first third, rife with appalling dialogue, prehistoric cliches [example: when Cale’s daughter refuses to call him Dad because he’s been neglecting her, you just know she will say it at the end] and an almost excruciating worship of the presidency and the White House, though saying that, they seem to want to have it both ways in this film, considering some of the imagery later on.
So the action can’t come quick enough, and eventually it does, consisting mainly of the usual sneaking around and dispatching of bag guys by gun, hand and the occasional other implement. At one point Obama, no sorry Sawyer, stabs a bad guy with a pen after the mentioning of the pen being mightier than the sword, which would be funny if Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade hadn’t happened. The action suffers from too many close-ups but mostly avoids the shakycam/hyper-fast editing crap that not only plagues modern action cinema but modern cinema full-stop, it nefariously creeping in virtually everywhere. Outside the White House there’s a decent car chase around the lawn and lots of shoddy CGI helicopters flying around, and unlike the ones in Olympus Has Fallen these ones don’t even fly like actual helicopters. For God’s sake, can nobody obtain real helicopters or build models anymore? Then again, they aren’t as bad as the awful computer generated explosions. Roland Emmerich, a director I will never forgive for inflicting the dreadful so-called Godzilla, a total insult to all fans of the Japanese monster, upon us, has never been a great director, not even of action, but his work is usually strong on the special effect side of things and also usually has a goofy sense of fun that is quite appealing. White House Down has its laughs, both intentional and otherwise, but could have done with some more. It’s thoroughly unbelievable and ridiculous, but lacks spark. Nonetheless, it’s still impossible to hate a movie where the hero falls through a glass ceiling onto a piano, gets up with nary a bruise, then immediately jumps through a window.
Tatum and Jamie Foxx are a most enjoyable team, their banter both warm and amusing. It’s nice to see a cinematic pairing that likes each other right from the beginning. The villains are a fun bunch but Maggie Gyllenhaul just seems like she wonders what she’s doing in the movie. There’s certainly fun to be had in White House Down, but it just never becomes as exciting and suspenseful as it should do. I spent more time wondering about things like how amazingly unsecure the Most Secure Building In TheWorld is then being gripped by the thrills and spills. If you want some dumb entertainment than White House Down just about does the job, but you’re better off checking out Olympus Has Fallen to be honest, if you haven’t yet seen it. The earlier film wasn’t really a classic, but it was rather better.