Probably one of blockbuster-director Roland Emmerich’s better movies over the last ten years or more, White House Down ticks all the boxes as a solid action film.
John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a man out to prove himself to his wife and emotionally distant daughter by signing up to become one of the US President’s (Jamie Foxx) bodyguards. But just as he is declined, his chances arises when the White House is taken over from the inside by terrorists and everyone inside is held hostage.
It is undeniable that the comparisons to Olympus has Fallen are rife with reviewers, both films released last year with barely a month between them (one of the reasons I wanted to review both back-to-back). There are weirdly similar elements besides the blatantly obvious (the titles are effectively the same!) both have scenes referring to the British attack on the White House from American history, and I’m sure both have a villain say the line: “Welcome to my house”.
For all its infrequent cheesiness and let’s be honest here, “Emmerichisms”, this film is better paced and has more emotional connection than its overly-serious counterpart. The setup feels more believable (incredibly, considering the tonal differences of both films!) our villains appear to have a thought out plan, the heroes become tied into the action with actual reasons. Heck, I even felt these characters were actually vulnerable, unlike the scenery-chewing Gerald Butler.
Sure, when action hero Cale teams up with the US President we get quips, we get wise cracks and the film starts to become a surreal buddy action movie that… for all intensive purposes… makes no realistic sense. But at least White House Down runs with it, it knows what it is: a bit of entertainment!
(there’s no overbearing and trumpeting score, or any all-praise-America baggage here!)
It is by far a good movie, its characters are pretty stock, the action and effects aren’t actually as good as Olympus in my opinion, and it may have been a little long in the tooth by the end. But it has good pacing otherwise and doesn’t feel restricted by its own presence and gravity. The levity comes from the dialogue, both from heroes and villains.
Like with Olympus, I doubt I will remember this film for much longer, but I can tell you right now that this film was more enjoyable and… paradoxically for Emmerich… felt more genuine than the serious-toned alternative.
A bit of high grade action fun, the sort of thing Emmerich is good for, without the ghastly ham-fisted nature of his worst movies!