Capitol Policeman John Cale has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service assigned to protect President James Sawyer. Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group.
Roland Emmerich is behind the latest White House take down film with ‘White House Down’, following up his 2011 film ‘Anonymous’, this time Emmerich teams up with writer James Vanderbilt who’s worked on both Amazing Spider-Man films and of course the Robocop remake. This time around we find Channing Tatum in the centre of chaos in the White House alongside Jamie Foxx.
Story wise ‘White House Down’ feels very familiar, we’ve seen the main set piece in peril several times over and as recently as earlier this year. Roland Emmerich however takes the familiar and puts his own style to it. Whether you like the film or not this undeniably carries the familiar sensibilities that Emmerich brought to previous projects such as Independence Day, 2012, and The Day After Tomorrow.
‘White House Down’ is a blend of action comedy, enthusiastic patriotism and an underlying convoluted political commentary, all packaged together in an entertaining film. Tonally the film drifts erratically from action comedy to something trying to be more serious, and within the first act ‘White House Down’ builds tension in an effective way, but this quickly subsides as the overall expression shifts into a lighter comfort zone.
Dialogue is scattered throughout the film trying to maintain the presence of its commentary on modern global affairs however it’s handled pretty clumsily for the most part and intercut with the more entertaining aspects of the film involving Tatum and Foxx. Ultimately it works within the context of the style of this film, which is to say, ‘White House Down’ has more than its fair share of cheese and optimism.
As the film progresses Emmerich becomes less and less restrained, performances become increasingly overly dramatic, clichéd plot twists reveal themselves, and patriotic symbolism is heavily used while articulating heroic moments. But overall the film is structured well with its action beats spread out to keep the audience interested and engaged as the film jumps around between its main heroes, its villains and a room full of military and bureaucratic officials trying ineffectively to sort out their mess.
Few of these characters are fleshed out further than what is revealed in their introductory scene, but Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx make the most of it and display a terrific onscreen chemistry. The film is at its best with these two onscreen following them in a buddy cop fashion that works so well. Beyond that however there were few highlights amongst the cast, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, and Richard Jenkins all play to their strengths in the roles they are given, Gyllenhaal in particular gives a performance that overplays the role but in a way that suits the context of the film around her. Jason Clarke also has little material to work with but still provides some entertaining moments with just a few lines of dialogue.
The action sequences themselves are well constructed, and the cast all have a strong onscreen physicality, Emmerich packs in the military hardware, explosions, gunplay and fist fights right through till the end making a film with little substance for its 130 minute running time make the most of every minute.
‘White House Down’, is hammy, with some cringe worthy dialogue, and soap opera acting all as we’ve seen before from Emmerich, and this is specifically as he intends it to be. The film is crafted into an entertaining and fun action film that is a good time at the movies whether you’re laughing at it, or with it, and this fun factor can’t be denied. For that I’m giving ‘White House Down’ 6 out of 10 stars.