Photo credit: Rainer Bajo
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WHITE HOUSE DOWN
2013, 137 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
The master of disaster Roland Emmerich is back with White House Down. The film tells the story of a Capitol Policeman, John Cale (Channing Tatum), who takes his daughter on a tour of the White House. During the tour, the two are separated, the White House is taken over by terrorists, the daughter is taken hostage, and John finds the President (Jamie Foxx) and has to protect him and save his own daughter.
A big problem with White House Down is that it fizzles out at the end. It should have been big, loud, and violent, but instead it is heavy-handed, cheesy, and ridiculous. However, this doesn’t sink the movie, as Emmerich’s good action scenes are really good and Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum’s comedic chemistry is very strong. Both gifted actors, the two handle the movie’s outrageous material quite well. The film benefits from a good sense of humor. It never takes itself too seriously and knows how dumb it is.
This movie was written by James Vanderbilt, best known for writing David Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac. The screenplay has so many improbabilities, is so outrageous, and so flat-out stupid that it is amazing somebody managed to think it was a good idea to write it. That being said, an absence of story allows Emmerich to do what he does best: blow things up, especially national landmarks. The action in this movie is alternately fun and weirdly uncomfortable. Some action scenes, particularly one on the White House lawn, are thrilling, but watching innocent White House security guards getting machine-gunned down isn’t fun. The CGI is subpar too, as nothing has the clarity or detail it should have when computer-animated.
Overall, White House Down is not a good movie. Frankly, it’s terrible, but it is fun enough that I was able to ignore a significant number of its flaws. This movie is so poorly-written though that it makes me concerned about the fate of future blockbusters. With atrocities like Fast & Furious 6 and Man of Steel that have an alarming disregard for logic making waves at the box office, I can safely say that this kind of movie is here to stay. Blockbusters don’t need rock-solid logic, but they do need a compelling story, something White House Down doesn’t have. This film is propelled by action. Great action films like Raiders of the Lost Ark defy logic like few others, but films like Raiders have great stories and involving characters, something this recent string of films don’t have. White House Down isn’t the worst way to spend a Saturday night, but with fun movies like Much Ado About Nothing and Frances Ha in theaters now, it is hard to even come close to recommending White House Down.