WHITE HOUSE DOWN
While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman (Channing Tatum) springs into action to save his child, Emily (Joey King) and protect the president (Jamie Foxx) from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard franchise, Channing Tatum plays the anti-hero who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He even takes off his shirt half way through the film and like Willis, ends up wearing just a singlet thereafter. Buff body on display, of course. Tatum is getting better and better and here, with bullets flying, the White House's crystal chandelier shaking and a well constructed plot with effective story strands nicely weaving texture into the mix, he shows his all-round credentials. At the helm is Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) who not only knows how to direct action but to mix light and shade, add nuance and inject humour as part of the narrative.
There are parallels with the recent Olympus Has Fallen in which Gerard Butler plays a disgraced former Presidential guard trapped in the White House, who rescues the President's young son. I criticised that film for its excessive flag waving, which is ironic bearing in mind that flag waving actually plays a role in this film. There is a reason for every piece of information that James Vanderbilt's script provides - from 11 year old Emily's (Joey King, appealing) literal and symbolic flag waving to White House trivia like the tunnels through which John Kennedy shepherded Marilyn Monroe on their secret trysts, the secret vault, tennis court, swimming pool and security processes. Emily also has a YouTube channel - and an iPhone from which to upload the footage she takes.
White House Down is a far superior film to Olympus. The fact that the objective of the armed intruders who storm the President's residence is not straight forward works to its advantage, adding to the interest and tension. These, like all the characters, have personality - like Jimmi Simpson's self-assured high-tech expert SkipTyler who plays Beethoven's 5th and sucks lollypops. Are their motives political? It is about money? Are they fundamentalists? Is there an 'inside' connection?
Emmerich has assembled a top cast who all make their mark in this action driven and beautiful executed tale. Jamie Foxx is perfect as the President who wants to make a difference, Richard Jenkins is understated as the Speaker of the House and James Woods convincing as the Head of Security. Maggie Gyllenhaal adds something special as the workaholic who stays awake with caffeine and patriotism. The meeting between Gyllenhaal's Carol and Tatum's Cale, when he is applying for a job in the secret service is very funny - and played absolutely straight. The fact that Emily is White House obsessed and has tagged along with Cale and they participate in a guided tour enables other plot points to eventuate, including other nicely worked humour involving the tour guide.
With large scale music as its counterpoint, the tension mounts and the action is full on with heavy artillery pounding, choppers crashing, the army at the ready with tanks and gymnastics here there and everywhere. I liked the action sequence in which Cale and the President screech around the White House gardens in the presidential limo, hotly pursued. Although the outcome is pretty well assured, there are surprises along the way and Emmerich keeps us engaged and connected throughout, always rooting for the good guys. A thoroughly enjoyable action thriller.
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WHITE HOUSE DOWN (M)
CAST: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gylenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre
PRODUCER: Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt, Brad Fisher, Larry J. Franco, Laeta Kalogridis, Harald Kloser
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich
SCRIPT: James Vanderbilt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anna J. Foerster
EDITOR: Adam Wolfe
MUSIC: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wander
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kirk M. Petrucelli
RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 5, 2013