<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre, Lance Reddick
In what seems to be a time of great violence, doomsday and apocalypse-themed films for Hollywood here’s yet another clone that sticks to formula but ends up being unconvincing and monotonous.
I’ve spoken about this in another reviews (Olympus Has Fallen, World War Z) so I’ll just mention it briefly: since real life is far more threatening and scary than the movies nowadays, the filmmakers have had to ratchet up the thrills and push the envelope. Sure we’ve seen attacks on the President of the United States in films before (Air Force One). Done much better, I might add. Now of course the self-proclaimed ‘safest building on the planet’ must be the target since only that will ensure a unique and new chill for people. After 9/11, every other tragedy really pales in comparison as far as OMG moments go.
Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down have several similar elements: Secret Service Agents, betrayal, the President’s secret bunker below the White House, nuclear launch codes and the lone down-on-his-luck hero trying to save the day and a little kid thrown in for good measure. Which one has copied which, I can’t say. Only that Olympus Has Fallen was far better in terms of thrill factor and far more believable.
Capitol Police guy John Cale (Channing Tatum) is an Afghan veteran who has a failed marriage and is struggling to advance his career by getting his friend, the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins) to get him a job interview with the Secret Service. Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) takes his interview while his daughter Emily (Joey King) waits outside expectantly. Needless to say things don’t look promising because he has to prove himself. By saving the White House and America. Wow, that’s a tough job interview.
An attack comes from within (that seems all too easy) and you wonder how lax the White House security really is (hopefully it’s not giving real terrorists any ideas). President Sawyer, played by Jamie Foxx, is this cool dude who has no military experience (just like Bill Pullman’s President in Independence Day, which was also directed by Roland Emmerich) and plans to withdraw all troops from the Middle East. This doesn’t go down well with some parties who decide to stage a coup of sorts. Revenge, betrayal and some very slapstick humour at points are interspersed with bouts of explosions and action sequences.
The funny thing is that when they think the Nike Air Jordan’s-wearing President is dead, they swear in a new one. And then a bit later, they’re swearing in a third President and you’re like what the fuck is going on here.
The problem with White House Down is that there is no real force of emotion or threat level. Jokes between the President and Cale at the most inappropriate times considering Cale’s daughter is being held hostage and all of the White House security is lying dead on the grounds doesn’t help you feel any gravity of the situation. It could just as well be a mall that’s being attacked.
Joey King as Cale’s daughter brings some element of reality to the proceedings and the White House tour guide played by Nicolas Wright provides just the right amount of comedic pause. Apart from that, the film is way too long, the finale is laughable and the acting just never quite cuts it. You’d be better off going to watch this week’s other films: Turbo. Or go get Olympus Has Fallen on DVD.