Review: White House Down

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Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Rating: 3 and a half rocket launcher jokes out of 5. This movie is a characteristically loud, silly but entertainingly trope-centered action movie. My only complaint is that it is a little too long, the 2 hour (and pocket change) running time lending itself to redundancy and repetitive cliches. That being said, many of those cliches still serve to entertain here, especially in the form of gratuitous, grandiose violence and are even offset at times by the humor throughout the film and chemistry between Tatum and Foxx as well.

Tatum plays Cale, a father trying to win back his precocious daughter Emily by bringing her to the White House on probably the most unlucky day, seeing as it is taken down by a random band of bad guys led by someone on the inside. You don’t find out quite what the motivations are until later, and even then we are given a pleasant amount of little twists and heightened moments of tension.

Something I liked about the film was the way this tension was played out in both spaces: where Cale ends up trying to rescue the president, played by Foxx (while simultaneously taking down the well-armed criminals and hopefully finding his daughter within the now compromised capitol) as well as the other outside areas where those politicians and government workers who got away are feverishly trying to help Cale, investigate what is really going on, and make typically insane decisions.

That is one important thing that I feel everyone has to know before going into this film: it is oh so typical. Typical Emmerich, typical action flick: straightforward and cheesy but in the best way possible, it knows its formula and doesn’t bother to alter it but does a really convincing job of following it so a lack of creativity can certainly be forgiven here. It reminded me of an updated version of Die Hard, with Tatum playing Willis’ John McClane character with a much broader, more endearing sense of humor. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously in general, and that is its main strong suit.

The film is not without flaws though. Emmerich, like a person who enjoys the sound of their own voice, really likes blowing things up. Scenes at a certain point almost ceased building upon one another, leading to some kind of ultimate climax, and instead just started to seem tired and familiar. But, I said “almost” for a reason, and that reason is Emmerich comes really close to this but manages just barely to save the film from this fate.

Somehow, even with the bloated length and comfortable tropes (this film does nothing new for the genre at all), the film remains a mindlessly fun popcorn flick. If you’re willing to deal with a couple of particularly corny shots and some overly recognizable explosions, then you should enjoy this formulaic re-romp through the white house from a director who has already destroyed it once before (and felt it necessary to remind viewers of that via a line spoken by the film’s token nerdy but heroic tour guide; if that doesn’t give you some idea of what you’re getting into here, there really isn’t anything I could say that would do the trick better).

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