White House Down

white house downReleased: 2013
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx

Disappointing and not as much fun as it should be


Ever since mid-April when I saw Olympus Has Fallen I’ve really been looking forward to this year’s second film about the Presidential home being attacked by terrorists. I was underwhelmed in April but I had high hopes for White House Down, starring Channing Tatum and directed by Independence Day helmer Roland Emmerich. I like films where things blow up and good looking men save the day (and the world). I’m not a film snob, I count Independence Day and Armageddon amongst my favourite movies. White House Down should have been made for me. Unfortunately it really wasn’t.

Tatum plays John Cale, a Capitol Policeman who dreams of being in the Secret Service and protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). He attempts to impress his precocious 11 year old daughter, Emily, with a tour of the White House but unfortunately their day is interrupted by a gang of far-right extremists who take over the building and attempt to capture the President. With Emily being held hostage and the President in danger Cale has to face the group of terrorists and single-handedly save the day.

White House Down isn’t the worst film that I’ve seen this year but it may just be the most disappointing. I was looking forward to some brainless popcorn fun, a great romp which would make idea Saturday night escapism. White House Down isn’t that – it’s over-cheesy, badly written, derivative nonsense. Both Olympus Has Fallen and this were given the quick descriptions of “Die Hard in the White House”. It’s easy to see why, single cop taking on terrorists in a confined space. But White House Down is so much closer to Die Hard than even the description would suggest. I’m loathe to call it a rip-off but… no I’m not. It’s a total rip-off. There’s a cop called John who has a family member being held hostage, a geeky computer nerd breaking security code to soaring classical music, a climb through a lift-shaft, a failed tank attack… several times I literally held my head in my hands at how many similarities there were.

The script is stupidly cheesy nonsense. Not in a fun, tongue in cheek way – in a toe-curling “get me the hell out of this cinema” way. There are a couple of good lines and the odd sparky moments between Cale and Sawyer liven up the film. Unfortunately though these are few and far between and if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen all of the best moments.

The film does come alive in some of the action sequences – Roland Emmerich knows how to direct satisfying big bangs and fun fist-fights. The performances aren’t that bad either, Channing Tatum is likeable and Jamie Foxx is very good. Joey King as Emily is also decent but is battling one of the more detestable child characters I’ve seen in years, when the bad guys repeatedly hold guns to her head I was begging them to shoot and put everyone out of their misery.

White House Down is disappointing in the extreme. The action scenes are good but it’s simply not as much fun as it should be. If you want Die Hard in the White House then Olympus Has Fallen is your best bet but to be honest you’re much better just sticking with Die Hard.

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