It’s been a bad year for the President of the United States. He’s died or been under attack in every way from Olympus Has Fallen to World War Z. We’ve dealt with attacks both foreign and alien, but no one ever mentions the war at home. That’s right, in Roland Emmerich’s (Independence Day, 2012) latest disaster flick, White House Down, we are dealing with domestic terrorists, and boy do they like their explosives.
On the eve of disaster, we see all the players going about their lives as if nothing were going to completely change them. We know better. Cale (Channing Tatum) is attempting to get his life in order and reconnect with his estranged daughter. Cale takes her with him to a job interview at the White House, where Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) grills him about why he wants to be a secret service agent to the president. Thinking Cale is too much of a loose cannon, Finnerty tells him there’s no way he’s getting the job. As a conciliation prize, he takes his daughter on a tour of the White House, where they just so happen to run into the President of the United States, President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Then all hell breaks loose. Father is separated from daughter, president from his secret service, terrorists from the lives, etc.
The premise is hardly original, especially considering a very similar film came out a couple of months ago (Olympus Has Fallen). It’s formulaic and predictable to the very end. With that said, it is a refreshing summer breeze during this stale, humid movie season. White House Down excels in every conceivable level Olympus Has Fallen failed. Instead of creating a strained, awkward relationship with the leading men, we see Tatum and Foxx hit it off almost instantaneously, allowing them to work (and joke) in tandem. Each brings their own natural charisma to the film making it relaxed, funny and just a bit sexy.
I have great respect for Roland Emmerich as a director/writer, not because of his bombastic, destruction filled films, but because he has publically come out acknowledging he makes popcorn action films, and he’s proud of it. There is a simple beauty to sticking to what you are good at. Just because you don’t leave the theater in a pensive, existentialist funk doesn’t mean the film is without its merits. White House Down will have you entertained and laughing (sometimes at the absurdity of it all) throughout the whole film. The biggest difference with Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down is that Olympus tried to convince us that its banal, preposterous story was something that needed to be taken seriously, while White House Down knew it was a joke and knew how to laugh at itself.
This film has a heart and soul, which can be seen through it character interactions, mounds of destruction, and inconceivable plot twists. Even though it’s not a very new heart or original soul, it’s still more than some films have. If there is only one big regret viewers leave with, it’s the fact that Channing Tatum kept most of his clothes on throughout the film.
RATING: ★★★★★★ (6/10 stars)
IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY.