Roland Emmerich has been known for his world destroying cinema throughout the years, but this summer his focus is squarely on that of D.C. The film follows an ex-military man, John Cale, who gets involved in a terrorist takeover of the White House while on a tour of the grounds with his daughter. His dream is to be a secret service member and when he gets a hold of President Sawyer from the grips of the terrorists he is forced to try and save both the leader of the free world and his daughter.
Yes, the first fifteen minutes or so of the film are a bit ridiculous in its generic set up, everyone’s place in life and their needs are set up with generic dialogue and little creativity, but once the action gets rolling the film really works about as best it can. Emmerich gets the ball rolling and never lets up. The few missteps in the film really come with a couple hokey turn of events near the end of the film and an unneeded twist that didn’t add much of anything to the picture. The set pieces are inventive, the effects top notch and his cast is 100% in on the fun.
Emmerich is used to working on a global scale, but confined mostly to the grounds of the White House he shows a great sense of space and inventiveness to keep things fresh. He is even able to pull off a pretty good car chase confined to just the White House lawn. Each fight/shoot out sucked me in and felt unique from the last, Emmerich keeps ratcheting up the stakes as Cale gets closer to saving the day and he even manages to make some biting commentary on politics, the media and our countries industrial military complex in a film made especially for the people that blindly support said things. I think this might just be my favorite film from Emmerich.
His cast is loaded with talent and he doesn’t waste any of them in the slightest. Tatum’s looks and age don’t really work for him having a daughter as old as she is here, but the two have chemistry and they are the emotional hook of the film. Tatum steps up and firmly cements himself as an action star here and any fans of his recent ascension to the top of Hollywood’s heap will have a blast running around with him. Speaking of the daughter, Joey King is kind of a bad ass here and makes the kid in an action movie that many people dread a real joy. She gets a number of great moments throughout the film and even though the script makes a couple knucklehead choices around her late in the game, it doesn’t take away from a stand out performance. Jamie Foxx is also a lot of fun as a bit cooler, a bit more bad ass Obama type that is everything racists fear in a black president. Not afraid to step to the side throughout the film, Foxx takes his moments, nails them and lets Tatum lead the way. The two are great when they are together though and keep the film fun and funny every time they hook up. The bad guys are also a lot of fun as James Woods brings just the right balance to Walker (crazy, sick, vengeful, loyal) even if his plan doesn’t make any sense, while Jason Clarke is a tough foil to Tatum’s heroic antics in an around the White House. Even the over the top and absurd comic relief around Nicolas Wright somehow works most of the time.
White House Down could easily have been a terrible endeavor, but its cast and director never let the movie slow down or falter. Some of the most fun I have had at the theater this summer, I can’t recommend the film much higher for fans of the summer blockbuster. Big action, plenty of laughs and a likable cast make the film work, but it’s missing something to transcend it into greatness. Still, I don’t know how a film like this could be a whole lot better and it will surely not disappoint action or casual fans looking for some fun this summer.
White House Down is a B+