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White House Down (2013) – Review

3 Stars


The second film of the year to feature an attack on the White House, and a brave secret service agent who steps up to protect the President of the United States. This unabashed hodgepodge of other (better) movies is such a blatant rip-off of previous blockbusters that the film becomes a roll-call of genre favorites from the past 25 years. Roland Emmerich is back in his comfort zone, after a brief deviation into small-scale productions. The man has been blowing up recognizable landmarks since the mid-1990′s and like all his work, White House Down has a polished and professional sheen that is much appreciated in a summer of frenzied, almost spastic filmmaking.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a personal guard for Speaker of the House Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). The detail is so monotonous, Cole spends his nights watching squirrels play in the trees. So when an interview opportunity arises for a spot in the Secret Service, John jumps at the chance. On the home front things aren’t going smoothly either, John’s hyper intelligent pre-teen daughter, Emily is perpetually mad at the estranged relationship between the two. In an attempt to make up, he takes her on a tour of the White House. Then an explosion rocks 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and the entire compound is overtaken by a mercenary force led by Martin Walker (James Woods), a disgruntled ex-patriot with far-reaching ties inside the government protection agency.

President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is saved from near execution by Cale, the duo team up to elude the invading force and stop a nuclear attack on the middle east. All of this is handled with skill and the movie never lumbers along even at a lengthy 137 minutes. This film is being billed as an action thriller, but it is likely to inspire more chuckles than thrills.

My feeling is that when you buy a ticket to a film titled White House Down, you can more or less expect what you are getting. There aren’t any big surprises here, just a workman like production from all involved. Tatum and Foxx work well off each other and the turncoat performance from James Woods, recalls Ed Harris in The Rock. Richard Jenkins and a host of other familiar character actors pop up in small roles, but the attention is never off of the two leads for too long.

The inevitable comparison to Olympus has Fallen must be addressed. That film was far more serious in tone and graphically violent, sometimes just to show off its R rating it seemed. WHD is a tongue in cheek version of a nearly identical story, the difference is that this movie’s ending is fun and uplifting. In these dog-days of summer, all you can ask for is a pleasantly diverting two-hour escape into an air-conditioned auditorium. White House Down is ideal viewing on that level.

Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods