It’s like waiting for a bus, right? You wait all year for a siege movie based in the White House and two come along at once… Albeit a few months apart… So, maybe not that similar to waiting for a bus…
Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler (the poor man’s Russell Crowe) met with the critical equivalent of a shrug. It seems the world just wasn’t ready for another propaganda film about the evils of North Korea.
So, with that in mind, what does White House Down have to offer? The story follows Channing Tatum, a US capital police officer, who takes his daughter with him to the White House for a job interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal’s secret service agent. When Capitol Hill is bombed, right-wing terrorists use the confusion to storm the White House and kidnap James Sawyer, the President of the United States of America. It’s up to Tatum’s abnormally thick neck and muscles to save the day.
If you liked Die Hard, Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance, then you are going to love White House Down. Really. Director Roland Emmerich and screenwriter, James Vanderbelt, must have had a late night marathon of Bruce Willis classics before they put their nose to the grindstone. Tatum berates himself constantly for getting involved, the terrorists aren’t all they seem, Foxx and Tatum bicker whilst driving at high-speed, and there is plenty of crawling through viaducts.
Not that being derivative in this case is a bad thing. White House Down is just big dumb fun and it knows it. If Foxx had ridden a T-rex though the corridors of power whilst clutching a laser gun, we would have accepted it and asked for seconds. Subtlety is not on the agenda. Nearly everything that will come into play in Act 3 is signposted with a neon Chekov’s gun. Like Q’s inventions in the Bond movies, if it’s not necessary to the plot, you don’t need to know.
Some of the dialogue crunches a little too loudly (‘You gotta get out there and be the President again.’), the patriotic allegories are a little too on the nose and a line uttered just as the credits roll will make you wince. However, it can all be forgiven by virtue of the fact, it sidesteps the grit that weighs down your usual modern-day blockbuster.
Finally, kudos for making the terrorists a little bit closer to home and, weirdly, throwing a couple of digs at that last Bastille of truth, Fox News. ‘Apparently we’re Arabs.’ Beams the terrorist team leader, when a news channel makes a leap of faith as to the ethnicity of the White House raiders. Whilst these little actions don’t make the film any more grounded, it is somewhat believable to think that a White House Aide would lament the crashing of the stock market to her superior as all around her burns.
We can’t be too mad at films that want you to have fun and whilst White House Down isn’t a shining beacon in filmmaking, it’s nonetheless an inoffensive way to spend a couple of hours at the cinema.