Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke, Joey King
Written by: James Vanderbilt
Running Time: 131 mins
Release date: 13th September 2013
A few months back, Gerard Butler donned the Die Hard hat on in action flick, Olympus Has Fallen, in which he was a former secret agent who single-handedly took on terrorists who had taken over the White House. It wasn’t very good. So now we have White House Down, a similar story with similar characters and similar situations, about terrorists taking over the White House. This, too, isn’t very good. And yet…
John Cale is a Capital policeman who is bodyguard to The Speaker of the House but dreams of being a fully fledged Secret Service agent and work with President Sawyer, who is currently trying to bring peace to the Middle East. Cale isn’t the flavour of the month with his daughter, always missing important events in her life and so to make it up to her, he takes her to his job interview at the White House; a job he fails to get due to his maverick approach to life. While on the tour, the Presidential residence comes under attack. Cale is separated from his daughter but manages to save the President. Now he has to prove himself: find his daughter who has been held hostage by the terrorists and get the President out safely.
If you had a playbook of how these one-man-against-terrorists film go, this follows every inch of it dot-to-dot. Difficult family relationship: check. Man who can’t get his life on track: check. Terrorists who want money but have another motive: check. Explosions, shoot-outs, big special effects involving helicopters: check. Ultimate cheesy ending: check, check, check! There is absolutely nothing original or inventive here, it has just taken big slices from other such movies and stitched them together. And yet…
Roland Emmerich is a past master of blowing up famous buildings and monuments and so he would seem to be the go-to guy for this, especially as he has destroyed the White House before in Independence Day. Here he has lots of new rooms and areas in which he can have fun with and this is the thing about it. While it all seems oh-so familiar, it’s a big loud blockbuster that is nothing more or nothing less, hence while some try to have an inch of a brain, this doesn’t. It’s utter nonsense, it knows it’s just that, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. The surprising thing was, I did.
The set pieces are very effective, from the car chase around the White House lawn to the massively over-the-top helicopter assault. It doesn’t do things by half. If Emmerich wants something blown up, he does it and then some. It also has some nice touches of humour. What let Olympus Has Fallen down was how po-faced it was. Here we get some nice little banter from Cale and Sawyer, as the two unlikely warriors up against an army of military types bicker like old women while using rocket launchers.
The cast is also somewhat tasty and help to lift it from being another ho-hum Die Hard rip-off. Channing Tatum, who I really didn’t like a few years ago, is slowly proving his worth and while he doesn’t have to do too much acting, he might not be Bruce Willis but he could be eventually. (There is an obvious Die Hard nod when Tatum, who was suited and booted, goes down to a white vest…hmm). Partnering him with Jamie Foxx as the President was a smart move too. The Oscar winner has the look of authority but is hip and cool at the same time and the pair have plenty of chemistry.
Add to the equation, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods and Richard Jenkins, all fine actors who bring a touch of class to the proceedings and suddenly this ludicrous film has some levity.
It’s is rubbish, there is no denying. It flopped in the States, mainly because many thought it was Olympus Has Fallen all over again. Yes, it is but for all its faults, all it’s copying of other films, if you are wanting something loud and brainless just to kill a few hours then you can’t do any better than this. It’s not fine art, it’s not subtle and the ending might bring a little sick up but a big bag of popcorn, a sugary drink and away you go and sometimes that’s all you need from a movie.