White House Down (2013)
Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 29, 2013 @ tonymacklin.net.
After seeing White House Down, you could well leave the theater as I did, saying, "God, that was an awful movie."
But you could have a smile on your face, as I did, because of the sheer amount of nonsense which you've survived.
White House Down is rip-roaring and ridiculous.
One goes to a movie such as White House Down knowing he is going to have to suspend his disbelief, but that suspension must be earned by the film.
During the first half, White House Down deserves suspension of disbelief, even though it is silly. John Cale (Channing Tatum), is a divorced dad who has served in Afghanistan.
He takes his disgruntled 11-year old daughter Emily (Joey King) with him when he interviews for a job with the Secret Service protecting the President (Jamie Foxx). He doesn't get the job, but he and Emily join a tour of the White House.
With the touring group, they meet the President, and Emily gets a short interview with him which she records on her cell phone camera. Later she uses the phone to record terrorists. Huh? Sure.
The terrorists interrupt the tour when they attack the White House from inside. All cell hell breaks loose. Cale has to save the President. Cale and President Sawyer have good chemistry, and the frayed threads of credibility haven't given way yet.
But they do, as machine gun barrages blow away dialogue, and the plot goes up in spastic smoke. Outrageous event piles upon outrageous event, as the movie flails into a cartoon.
If director Roland Emmerich wanted to make a cartoon, he should have revived Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. But Emmerich is no Chuck Jones.
So Emmerich wastes good actors in his race to destroy any credibility standing in his way.
Emmerich directed Independence Day (1996), which was entertaining without sacrificing character. But Emmerich careened off the rails with the wretched 2012 (2009).
For half White House Down, it seems like it might be at least in the company of Independence Day, but it careens into dopey special-effects abuse. One can almost hear a voice saying, "Forget this character stuff. Let's be outrageous."
The actors deserve a better director and a better film - there's a good movie somewhere under the rubble of White House Down.
James Vanderbilt, the writer, has done subtle work in Zodiac (2007), and he has some funny lines, e.g., the President says, "We got some knives in the kitchen." When Cale rejects that, he adds, "They're big knives."
Vanderbilt includes a little political insight. The President says that once in office, "It all becomes political."
But the screenplay is then blown up with everything else. White House Down sets a record for most machine gun bullets that miss their target, as Cale prances, dives, and cavorts in their everlasting path.
Jamie Foxx underplays his role nicely, and Channing is convincing as his savior. Joey King is appealing as the spunky Emily. Maggie Gyllenhaal has charm as the agent who interviews Cale, whom she has known in the past.
James Woods chews White House curtains as the retiring head of the Secret Service that guards the President.
Jason Clarke was a hero in Zero Dark Thirty (2012). He now plays a villain in this Zero Dark Brain Cells.
In one sequence in White House Down a squirrel overtakes a bird house.
And then makes this movie.