White House Down, 2013.
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Joey King, Richard Jenkins, and Jason Clarke.
After failing a job interview, struggling father John Cale (Channing Tatum) takes his daughter, Emily (Joey King) on a tour of the White House. Meanwhile President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) has started controversial peace talks with Middle Eastern leaders, but not everyone is happy about it. Cale finds himself in a race against time to save his daughter and protect the President while mercenaries roam the White House.
White House Down is the second film this year that focuses on the iconic building being taken over. The other was Olympus Has Fallen, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t feel that White House Down was as good as that film, but it was fairly entertaining.
With Roland Emmerich you pretty much know what you’re going to get; a lot of light humour and some big action spectacles. White House Down delivers on those fronts, however, I feel that the comic relief moments were the highlights of the movie and that’s a problem in an action film. A lot of the laughs were genuine, but many more came from parts of the film that were played straight but felt like they should have been tongue-in-cheek; Channing Tatum did so many ‘action-hero’ dives it felt like it could have been made in the 80s. Due to this I never found myself fully invested in the film or on the edge of my seat. I also found it strange that despite the film being localised it didn’t feel claustrophobic, and as such I don’t think the tension was as palpable as it could have been; it still felt big even though it was mostly confined to the grounds of the White House.
The story was very straightforward and a lot of the plot points were telegraphed early on so there weren’t too many surprises in store. The film does feel longer than its runtime and at points I found myself wishing that it would just hurry up and get to where I knew it was going to go. The start of the film especially felt a little sluggish.
The casting was, again, okay. Everyone did quite well with what they were given. I liked Joey King as Emily Cale, she was a surprisingly strong presence and she managed to steal a lot of attention away from her older, more experience co-stars. Channing Tatum does a decent job of carrying the film. I think he’s one of those actors that you pretty much know what type of performance you’re going to get, so there’s nothing really notable about his performance (apart from the aforementioned dives, which he really nailed). In all honesty I was a little disappointed in Jamie Foxx, although his performance improved as the movie went on.
Part of the reason why White House Down fails is because of the relationship between Cale and Sawyer. Most of the interaction between them felt a little flat and the rapport between them didn’t have that spark that other pairs do (for a recent example see Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in 2 Guns). The rest of the cast did serviceable jobs. The mercenaries were mostly cardboard cut-outs, aside from about three who had any semblance of a personality, and the most interesting one was isolated from most of the action.
All that being said, there were quite a few moments that tugged on the heartstrings and the comic relief means that there are a few laughs (although some of them are unintended), so it’s not a completely hollow experience, but it didn’t do enough to be anything more than decent.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★