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White House Down - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
White House Down
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-
Special Effects: B+

Realism was never something Roland Emmerich was going for. Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 2012 (2009) -- these are all movies that favor bombastic, entertaining spectacle over substance. And so what? Even among this preposterous disaster flicks, some are better than others, ranging from delightful to tedious. In some cases that range occurs within the same movie.

I'll say this about White House Down: it gets right down to the business at hand, zipping through only a few initial scenes of set-up. From then on, it's action packed, with likable actors playing likable (if fundamentally contrived) characters. It may still clock in at 131 minutes, but this one never gets tedious. It's all shameless fun, even with knowingly cornball one-liners sprinkled in here and there.

The story? Oh, it's about a terrorist takeover of the White House. After the curiously excessive knocking over of skyscrapers in Man of Steel (which, yes, was worse than this movie), 2013 is shaping up to be a curious year of movie-scene throwbacks to 9/11. Is it suddenly fashionable to play into fading fears of terrorism? The first major incident to occur in White House Down is a massive explosion in the U.S. Capitol, resulting in the complete collapse of the dome. It's a bit of a visceral image -- and its impact is left unexplored in the film, once it's established to have been a diversionary tactic. The terrorists are after the President, you see. That's one hell of a diversionary tactic.

You watch this movie, and observe all the ways in which the terrorists manage to infiltrate the White House undetected, and you just think, Nope. Nope, nope. This would never be possible, not in a million years. Seriously, one of them gets necessary supplies -- stashed in a supply closet. How preposterous the story is just compounds itself over and over, until you're left with no choice but to laugh at the movie an, well, enjoy the ride in spite of its overt stupidity.

We get a heroic 11-year-old, Emily (Joey King), who is obsessed with politics and specifically, both the White House and the President in it: Sawyer (Jamie Foxx -- fulfilling an apparent tradition of black Presidents in disaster movies, only this time it's the movie's one reflection of reality). Emily's dad, Cale (Channing Tatum), is interviewing for a position on the President's security detail, and somehow manages to get a pass for Emily in order to impress her after a few Dad screw-ups. This is how Cale and Emily are both inside the White House when the terrorists take hostages.

It might as well be said that White House Down is "Die Hard in the White House." Die Hard has spawned a litany of imitators, none of them stacking up to the original, and in the end this movie will just blend in with the rest of them. Cale is simply a 21st-Century John McClane, thrust into reluctant heroism. Only this time his daughter is apparently braver than he is (not because he's cowardly, but because Emily as a character is just plain ridiculous), and, as usual, the villain (James Woods) is disappointingly bland. Where is Alan Rickman when we need him?

But, whatever. This movie works as long as it's in front of you, popcorn entertainment in its cheesiest splendor. It also has a surprisingly impressive list of supporting actors: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, Zero Dark Thirty's Jason Clarke. Even great actors have to work, I guess. Not that any of this really looks like work. Really, they look like they're having fun. And why shouldn't they? When they have fun, the audience has fun too. Just try not to pay attention to the motives behind these pointedly Caucasian terrorists -- who are attempting to thwart a Middle East peace process being brokered by President Sawyer, that appears headed toward success. HA HA HA HA! That's the funniest thing I've ever heard.

At least White House Down seems to know it's idiotic. A movie like this should never take itself seriously. If there's one thing Roland Emmerich truly understands about movies like this, that is it.

Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are the latest props in a Roland Emmerich movie.

Overall: B-
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: April 28th, 2015 05:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Tbh Olympus has Fallen is so much better.
1 comment or Leave a comment