Movie Review: “White House Down” – And Down It Goes…

Written by Leo Panasyuk July 05, 2013

Channing-Tatum-White-House-Down (1)

Roland Emmerich first destroyed the White House in “Independence Day” in a scene still parodied and made reference to even today. Now, 17 years later it seems that he has come back for round two.  While most may simply brush this aside as “Olympus Has Fallen 2,” know this… you’re right to do so. “White House Down” is this year’s other White House-siege film but unlike “Olympus Has Fallen,” it lacks the drama, depth and emotion of its predecessor and instead opts for loud and flashy action setpieces and a confusing, if not weak, plot – which is what ultimately brings this house down.

It Started Like Any Other Day…

Channing Tatum stars as John Cale, a Capitol Police officer with dreams of joining the elite ranks of the Secret Service in the hopes that it’ll bring him closer to his rather distant yet politically-fascinated daughter, Emily (Joey King). On the day of John’s interview, Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) and his team of mercenaries attack and seize the White House, taking a group of people, including Emily, hostage. Now it is up to Cale, with the unlikely aid of the President himself (Jamie Foxx), to take back the White House and evict its not-so-welcome guests.

This could be the face of the new John McClane.// I'll let that sink in for a second.

This could be the face of the new John McClane… I’ll let that sink in for a second.

Can’t Olympus Keep it Together?

Watching this film, it was quite difficult not to compare it to “Olympus Has Fallen,” as they are essentially the same product, just in different packaging. What OHF lacked was comic relief and this film delivers that in spades. The tone is certainly lighter than you’d expect and most of the credit goes to the brilliant chemistry between Tatum and Foxx. Despite the odds, these two manage to make it through the roughest of scrapes and still toss in a joke here and there. Tatum has truly come a long way from his “Step Up” days and makes a formidable action hero despite being universally known as a pretty face. He’s serious, tough and doesn’t look half bad gripping an assault rifle in his hands. Foxx is equally good, being a much more ‘hip and cool’ President than audiences would expect. Most of the supporting cast, however, feel awkward in their roles, serving no greater purpose than to move the plot forward between the film’s numerous action sequences.

“Can You Not Hit Me in the Head With a Rocket Launcher?!”

The film does, however, have its negatives and these are mainly the plot and the over-amped amount of action – don’t get me wrong, I like a good action sequence every now and again but I also like some plot with my action. Roland Emmerich is a director known for making films that feature massive amounts of destruction and it was rather interesting to see him narrow his destructive focus on a single building instead of, say, a city like in previous films. This film features all kinds of action: gunfights, fistfights and even a car chase. The initial siege sequence is well-edited but so tactically unbelievable that it almost becomes difficult to appreciate and every other action sequence in the film can best be summarized as Channing Tatum frantically jumping, diving or rolling around as the enemy shoots desperately at him. As for the car chase scene, as cool as it is, it’s probably the most ridiculous scene in the entire film and could have been left on the cutting room floor.

One of the many wooden supporting characters.

One of the many wooden supporting characters.

The plot is underdeveloped (as most of the budget must have gone to the aforementioned action) and this is where the film suffers most. The film takes a while to really explain the motives behind the attack but even when it does, they make almost no sense. Without spoiling anything, the best way to describe the ‘why’ of it all is ‘a massive overreaction.’ As well, there are two surprise antagonists but the film doesn’t do a very good job of hiding them; one is explicitly telegraphed almost five minutes into the film and the other is shoehorned in at the very end, making it feel awkward and unnecessary. There’s also a bit of political subtext sprinkled throughout but much of it is diluted by the explosive action and weak plot.

Overall

“White House Down” is a good action film – because that’s what it is… an action film. It doesn’t really hit all the bases necessary to make it a great action film but it does the best with what it has. The action is really the cornerstone of this film and it does not disappoint. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the plot but of course, this being a summer action flick, chances are you’re not exactly paying to be taught about the inner workings of the government and the American political system, are you?

My Rating: 6/10

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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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